Performance by an actor in a leading role
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote” (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow” (Paramount Classics, MTV Films and New Deal Entertainment)
Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain” (Focus Features)
Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line” (20th Century Fox)
David Strathairn in “Good Night, and Good Luck.” (Warner Independent Pictures)
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way first, “Nice of you to show up Terrence, Joaquin and David, have a drink”, because the showdown is really between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger, and incidentally, both for playing gay roles.
This was Terrence Howard’s year, who came from “that black dude in that black movie, you know? That guy” to become an AC-T-TOR, with the double whammy of Crash and Hustle & Flow. It’s too bad he wasn’t nominated for Supporting Actor in Crash (as I thought he would), because he would have actually had a reasonable chance this year, but in a year where all five of these nominees could have won in a weaker year, the nomination for Terrence was just a welcome card to the Academy Club.
And speaking of bad timing, poor Joaquin could have been a front runner, too bad Johnny Cash wasn’t gay. I never think I’m a fan of Joaquin Phoenix’s until I see him in a film again and am reminded that he’s actually quite good. He was terrific in this movie, and I actually didn’t think he was as much of a caricature as “Ray” or “Capote”.
David Strathairn, what can I say? He’s a great actor and he finally gets top billing and finally noticed, and he spews some great lines out of Good Night, and Good Luck. If only it came out in another year.
So, Heath or Philip? Philip has his amazing resume behind him, and its wonders he hasn’t won before, but while at times I was totally engrossed into Capote, there were more times that I KNEW it was Philip ACTING as Capote. It was a more flamboyant role and showy usually wins (as Kate Winslet says, play a cripple or a nun and you’ll definitely win an Oscar) which is too bad because:
Heath Ledger plays Enis Del Mar with such a quiet intensity that I completely forgot who the actor was, but too bad subtle performances get lost in people’s judgement over “better” acting. Plus, while we saw hints of Heath’s acting ability in Monster’s Ball and 10 Things I Hate About You, this was still a performance that was a complete surprise to me, and has me totally re-evaluating Heath’s ability as an actor (though I never saw Casanova!). The fact that he could convey that much emotion and feeling from so little dialogue is something often underappreciated.
So, Heath should win, Philip will (unless enough people are annoyed at him since apparently he’s extremely pompous).