Once again, Edward Copeland has done the blogosphere a tremendous service by asking over 120 film bloggers and buffs their picks for the Best Best Actor winners…including yours truly, for which I am justly humbled. I also didn’t do too shabby in the final outcome—I picked four out of the Top Eleven, with three in the Top 10 and two in the Top Five. (Eddie was even kind enough to use my quote on the only one I missed—William Holden for Stalag 17—because…well, apparently I’m the only one who had anything nice to say about him. I’m actually pleased with this…though I knew my choice wouldn’t be a popular one.) So let’s take a look at the winners, ranked in the Top Twenty:
19) James Stewart (The Philadelphia Story) and Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons), tied – I’ll be honest; I seriously considered listing Scofield among my Top Five, because he does give one hell of a performance. The problem I have with Scofield is, he was really more a creature of the stage than film and I’ve always felt it was unfair that he received the statue for such a skimpy cinematic resume. (Please don’t interpret this as my not liking Scofield—one of the best performances I’ve ever seen give is as Mark Van Doren in Quiz Show .) As for Jimmy…well, I think my dislike for Story has a lot to do with the fact that I feel he won the Oscar for the wrong performance. (Fast-talking reporter = Jimmy Stewart? Not even Ripley would believe that.)
18) Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) – I like Weekend, but I don’t think Milland should have won the Big Prize.
17) Humphrey Bogart (The African Queen) – I don’t deny Bogie his due but he gave much better performances. In a sane world, he would have won for In a Lonely Place (1950).
16) Fredric March (The Best Years of Our Lives) – A great performance in a movie I’ve never really warmed up to.
14) Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) and Peter Finch (Network), tied. Danny Peary argues in Alternative Oscars that no Lancaster role was ever worthy of an Oscar…which makes me curious as to whether Danny’s ever seen Sweet Smell of Success (1957)…or Atlantic City (1980), for that matter. I took Finch out of the running because Bill Holden is the star of Network.
13) Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) – You can’t deny Hopkins isn’t great in this…but it’s a Best Supporting Actor performance, if you gauge how much screen time he has.
12) Adrien Brody (The Pianist) – Haven’t seen it.
11) Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) – On my Top Five list.
10) George C. Scott (Patton) – Some other blogger (whose name escapes me) opined that Scott basically recycled his General Buck Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove (1964) in this film. What can I say—he’s absolutely right!
9) Alec Guinness (The Bridge on the River Kwai) – Not to slight Sir Alec, but his best film performance is as Gully Jimson in The Horse’s Mouth (1958).
8) James Cagney (Yankee Doodle Dandy) – In my Top Five, too…I thought he would have ranked a little higher, though.
7) F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) – Haven’t seen it.
6) Marlon Brando (The Godfather) – I wasn’t going to do what so many people did last year with Vivien Leigh and include Brando twice in my Top Five. He does deserve the space, though.
5) Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot) – Haven’t seen this one, either…though my curiosity has been piqued from this comment from Copeland crony the Odienator: “What makes this performance so great is that Day-Lewis never asks for our sympathy; he makes Christy a fully-rounded individual. Plus he drinks your milkshake. He drinks it all up. With his foot!"
4) Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird) – I knew this one would make the Top Five. Had it on my list, too.
3) Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) – Nicholson’s recent downhill slide of parodying himself in any movie role kind of influenced me to leave him out of my Top Five picks. Besides, he’s better in Chinatown (1974).
2) Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull) – Yes, I know…I should have Bobby on my list. Blame Bill Holden.
1) Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront) – In the words of Fox at Tractor Facts: “The glove scene, man, the glove scene!”
Go on over to Eddie’s and check out the list; I know the Best Best Winners comments aren’t nearly as entertaining as the Worst but there are some interesting perspectives from many of the folks who voted (I also liked this, a list of Best Actor Winners who failed to receive any Best votes). Again, my profuse thanks to Mr. C for encouraging my behavior—and I’m counting the days 'til the Best and Worst Best Director contest next year!