I love Morgan Freeman. Absolutely cherish the man as an actor, narrator and all-around human being. Now that I have that established, Freeman didn’t deserve his latest Best Actor Oscar nomination for playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus. Call it blasphemy if you want, but the Academy simply mailed it in on that one. When a well-respected Hollywood thespian plays a historical icon reasonably well, they almost always pick up a Best Actor/Best Actress nom.
Paint a unibrow on Salma Hayek and — BOOM! — she gets nominated for Frida.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age was a certified POS, but it picked up a nom for Cate Blanchett.
Anthony Hopkins hammed it up as an alcoholic version of Nixon and made the cut. Frank Langella was a better Nixon, but he too got nominated for playing the ex-president. At this rate, we’ll have Christian Slater picking up a nom for playing Tricky Dick soon.
Will Smith starred in the forgettable Ali, and the Academy took the Oscar bait.
The latest example is Freeman picking up a Best Actor nomination for Mandela. As stated above, I am a huge Freeman fan. I also, of course, respect Mandela as much as just about anybody who has ever walked the Earth. This role just seemed too easy for Freeman, though. It was as if he was just playing an exaggerated version of himself; just a tad more epic, more graceful, more wise. Invictus wasn’t even that good. Then again, Clint Eastwood directed the film, so it had to get honored in some capacity. I like Dirty Harry and all, but the Academy has always had a major hard-on for the actor/director who, in my book, is a little overrated.
Here are five actors who were more deserving of 2010 Best Actor nominations than Morgan Freeman.
5. Chris Pine, Captain Kirk, Star Trek
If there was ever an actor-role pairing that became synonymous, that combo was William Shatner and Captain Kirk. But not only did Pine wow both critics and Trekkies alike with his rough-and-tumble recreation of the Kirk role, he also won over legions of new fans. No easy task considering many of those fans had unfavorable preconceived notions about the crew of the USS Enterprise. Despite Star Trek being a summer-popcorn flick, Pine delivered a sharp, star-making performance.
4. Sharlto Copley, Wikus Van De Merwe, District 9
Speaking of star-making performances, this role blew Copley up. Copley’s Wikus was a cross between Michael Scott and Dr. Richard Kimble that gave us one of the most sympathetic sci-fi characters we’d seen in a long time. As humane as it was humorous, Copley’s performance reminded us that deep down there’s still some good left in mankind. Three things made this film an unlikely Best Pic contender: its look, its mockumentary style and Copley.
3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hansen, (500) Days of Summer
This is, oh, only the third time the Oscars have snubbed JGL (Brick and Mysterious Skin being the two other occasions). It’s almost as if they have lumped him into the “he’ll be back club” that proudly boasts Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr. as members. That’s elite company, but this brilliant young actor deserves it. (500) Days of Summer was a refreshing rom-com that felt like a mash-up of Michel Gondry and Woody Allen. The way the script was written, it totally depended on its star being able to sell himself as a wide-eyed romantic who was tortured by a girl who couldn’t love him back. He more than delivered. You get the feeling this guy can do anything. Maybe the Academy will notice next year?
2. Michael Stuhlbarg, Prof. Lawrence ‘Larry’ Gopnik, A Serious Man
Just because 90% of the audience wouldn’t have known Stuhlbarg, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been nominated. Similar to how John Turturro carried Barton Fink, Stuhlbarg carried this Coen Bros. pic. Some say that because much of the film centers around Judaism it is only accessible to Jews. That’s like saying only murderers can fully grasp No Country for Old Men because its focus is unnecessary bloodshed. Maybe the Academy needs to visit its rabbi for advice next time it picks Best Actor noms. Stuhlberg killed it.
1. Sam Rockwell, Sam Bell, Moon
Freeman getting a nom over Rockell was highway fucking robbery. He and writer/director Duncan Jones turned a glorified one-man act into a poor man’s 2001. If you nominate Tom Hanks for Cast Away, it’s only right that you also nominate Rockwell for Moon. After all, Moon was a superior film and Hanks arguably had more help from his co-stars, at least physically. In fact, I’m not so sure I didn’t prefer Rockwell’s performance to Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning one in Crazy Heart. That’s how damn good he was in this one. He’ll be back for sure, but his omission definitely left a big black eye on the face of the 2010 Oscars.