Movie News & Reviews

Rich Copley: Does Giamatti's Oscar fate await Clooney?

Oscar's best-actor race could well come down to George Clooney, left, who played Matt King in The Descendants, and Jean Dujardin, as George Valentin in The Artist.
Oscar's best-actor race could well come down to George Clooney, left, who played Matt King in The Descendants, and Jean Dujardin, as George Valentin in The Artist.

It was not too long ago that George Clooney had not even attended the Academy Awards. The Lexington-born, Augusta-raised Kentuckian said he would not go until he was nominated.

Now, Clooney is an Oscar winner (in 2006 for best supporting actor in Syriana) and has four other nominations.

Last Sunday night, he won one of the bellwether honors for the Oscars: the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his performance in The Descendants, as a Hawaiian land baron who has fallen out of touch with his family.

Is Clooney in line to add another Oscar to his trophy case?

Entertainment Weekly even put him and The Help star Viola Davis on an elegant cover of its recent issue devoted to predicting the Oscar race.

In a normal year we'd say yes, Clooney's got the edge. But the Oscars-Golden Globes equation is a little off-kilter this year because everyone in Hollywood seems to be in love with The Artist and its star, Jean Dujardin, which won Golden Globes for best motion picture-comedy or musical and best actor in a comedy or musical.

The film, which opened Friday at the Kentucky Theatre, created instant buzz as a silent, black-and-white movie, showing that decades after its demise, the silent format is a delightful forum for storytelling. It is the sort of film and performance that Oscar loves: different and kind of gimmicky.

Given the buzz out of Hollywood, you have to think Dujardin is the frontrunner for the Oscar for best actor. But Clooney should be part of the conversation, if he is not Giamatti'd.

Here's the omen: The Descendants was written and directed by Alexander Payne, who also wrote and directed Sideways in 2005. That movie had a widely praised performance by Paul Giamatti as a struggling author and wine snob whose life is unraveling.

When the Oscar nominations were announced, certainly Giamatti was going to be in the hunt. But no. In what is viewed as one of Oscar's greatest snubs, Giamatti was not even nominated. The Aviator's Leonardo DiCaprio, Finding Neverland's Johnny Depp, Hotel Rwanda's Don Cheadle, Million Dollar Baby's Clint Eastwood and the eventual winner, Ray's Jamie Foxx, were.

Few disagreed that Foxx deserved the honor, but how could Giamatti not even be in the running? The next year, he was nominated for best supporting actor in Cinderella Man — but he lost to Clooney.

With praise for his performance and that Golden Globe in hand — accepted, like his 2006 Globe for Syriana, with a dash of locker-room humor — Clooney looks like a safe bet to be named when the Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday morning. (If he is, his name might be read by Oscar nominations announcer and Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence, a best-actress nominee last year for Winter's Bone and star of the forthcoming The Hunger Games.)

Clooney will probably have more chances for an Oscar this year anyway. He is likely to receive nominations for writing and directing The Ides of March, which is mentioned as a best picture contender, and Gorgeous George didn't do a bad acting job in that one either.

So Clooney could add to his Oscar total this year. But in the best-actor race, this will probably be the year for another Artist.