PANEM ET CIRCENSES
It's my first year in the Online Film Critics Society, so I was a bit overwhelmed and overjoyed when we started getting inundated with screener copies of films in theatres and invitations to screenings of films that haven't gotten released yet. (I'm not gonna lie -- there's something remarkably satisfying about watching a movie on a DVD from the comfort of your own underpants that hasn't even arrived in theatres yet.) I've personally got fourteen films to watch on my desk right now, plus a list of at least that many more to watch before the year is out. I've been trying to keep a running list of the potential nominees as I watch each film -- and it's been difficult. I've got at least four to seven in each category already, and I still haven't even seen some of the foreign films. Every time I think I'm free, they keep pulling me back in.
This year is going to actually be a fight for the Oscar.
I thought about doing one of those predictive Oscar lists that everyone compiles roundabouts this time o' year -- the speculations as to whose gonna get a nomination that everyone uses as crib sheets to make their own choices. And honestly, does it matter? How many times do you want to read the same list that has Inception, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Fighter, and The King's Speech on it? My guesses are gonna be the same as others, though in nominations as I do NCAA March Madness brackets, I like to make some completely irrational calls. Gonzaga for the win!
Instead, I had a better idea. I just finished Suzanne Collins' remarkable young-adult trilogy The Hunger Games, which I cannot recommend highly enough. In it, the totalitarian society forces each of 12 districts to perform a lottery to select two tributes to go forth and represent them in a battle to the death in a vast arena for the amusement of the folks living lavishly in the Capitol. So I decided, well, it's gonna be a pretty savage competition for this year's Oscars, and pretty much everyone is well deserving of a nomination, so why bother picking who deserves it by talent? Instead, as I love so much to do, I've decided to figure out who among eight or so nominees would win if the Oscars were based on gladiatorial combat. Because that's how most contests should be decided. By Spartacus levels of nudity and violence in monster truck arena presided over by wild-bearded Joaquin Phoenix. He's still here.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception
James Franco, 127 Hours
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Eisenberg might have learned how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse with the double tap, but he's easily gonna be the first person out in this exchange. His spindly little arms and nervous ticks might make him a delight to watch on screen, but when it comes to severe beatings, Eisenberg's gonna get whomped. DiCaprio is probably convinced he's an action star, with his youthful charm and smooth delivery, but he's a prep-school boxer at best. If he were facing down Clooney and the usual Winklevoss ilk, he might fare better. But this isn't Marquis of Queensbury rules, this is Fight Club, motherfucker. And he's sinking like a frozen little bitch. I'd give Franco the edge if someone angried him up, but he's a lover not a fighter. He'd probably stick it in there a little longer than most because it'd take a few minutes for his brain to register that his ribs were missing. He's a fit fella, but he's the kind of guy who breaks up bar fights, not starts them. So I could see Duvall and Bridges ganging up and kidney cracking him.
Colin Firth seems like he'd stand off to the side for a bit, find himself a nice dueling rapier and blunderbuss and then dispatch folks who come close. Which again, would put him in a square face-off with the likes of DiCaprio and those little suit-wearing mofos, but look who's left? There will be fucking blood, and while I think Firth could spill his share, he's eventually gonna get out grizzlied. Gosling puts on that "Hey Girl" shine, and he seems like he'd be a stoner pacifist like Franco, but he's got a psychotic streak that is easy to overlook. Not Ben Foster crazy, maybe a few scions below that. In fact, I could imagine him aping Franco, trying to put up a duel "chill" vibe, before Franco-shanking Jimmyboy in the kidney. If this wasn't being fought in close quarters, in a gladiatorial style duel, he'd probably disappear off into the woods, find one of the corpses, and make weapons out of the sharpened femurs of his foes. As it stands, I think he's gonna try to stay toe to toe, and that's where he'll lose out. He's gonna weaken a few of his fellow fighters, but I'm almost positive that he's out sooner than later.
Duvall's old, but he's crafty and vicious. I think a few of these guys would step to him first and get a face full of axe. Duvall's an old bear, but he's got plenty of scars. Also, he's borderline insane. Again, if this were some sort of wilderness type fight, Duvall and Gosling might have better odds. I just think age will finally take its toll, and Bardem and Bridges will respect their elders and eventually hack him to wrinkled old bits. Bridges is another one that would make this seem like it'd be a pacifist bong off. But lest we forget, he's already got experience in arena combat, even reprising the role for TRON: Legacy. I doubt he's gonna be working with lightbikes and laser discs, but still, after watching his Rooster Cogburn, The Dude is not a man to be fucked with. Again, I think he'd last by staying out of the initial scrum and then taking down anyone who steps to him. But unfortunately, he's dealing with Javier Bardem. Bardem is certifiably insane. He's like Dolph Lundgren, only you can take his acting seriously. I can actually see Bardem getting the first kill, ripping off Eisenberg's head and bathing himself in his nebbish blood. Bardem's probably going to do the most killing, either initiating combat on the pacifists or finishing off the victors of individual showdowns. I don't even think he needs weapons, though I can imagine he'd probably arm himself with something pointy and heavy and start bloodying up the competition.
Bardem's your clear winner here.