The Grouches have plowed their way through all of the films nominated for the big eight awards. Now we make the case for which film or performance we WANT to win. Doesn’t mean we think it will win or even have a shot at winning. But if we had a vote on the nominees, here’s who we would pick, and why:

BEST ACTOR NOMINEES: George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd), Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), Tommy Lee Jones (In The Valley Of Elah)

ADAM

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis

Let me first just say I don’t understand Daniel Day-Lewis. I’ve only seen him in three movies (Last of the Mohicans, Gangs of New York, and There Will Be Blood) and he’s been excellent in all three. He won a Best Actor for “Gangs” and he will probably win another for “Blood.” So why have I only seen him in three films? Well, one reason seems to be that in the past 10 years he’s only been in four – that’s right four – movies. And he’s only been in 12 in the past 20 years. What’s up with that? Arguably one of the best actors of our time and he never works. How does he make money? Is there a cash prize for Oscars? Is it like the Nobel Prize? On the complete flip side of the coin, Johnny Depp has been in over 30 movies and a TV series – 21 Jump Street (cue theme music) – in the same time frame (24 in the past 10 years alone). And, I would argue that he is just as good, if not better, of an actor. He literally invents the characters he portrays and makes them immediate classics. While I think Daniel Day-Lewis should get the award, I think Johnny Depp needs to get something for the way he is able to constantly produce fantastic performances. Speaking of which, I thought his performance in Sweeney Todd was amazing. In my mind, it is a much closer race for the award than critics are crediting. If Depp was able to pull out a win, I would be thrilled.

As for the other performances, I thoroughly enjoyed both Viggo and George’s performances. I thought Viggo’s depiction of a Russian mobster/driver was terrific and the only reason he edges out George’s performance is the infamous bath room scene. While Tommy Lee Jones’s portrayal was the weakest of the four, I can’t complain too much. He did a good job in “In the Valley of Elah.” I would have chosen someone else, but I’ll let it slide…this time.

Performance Ranking:

1. Daniel Day-Lewis
2. Johnny Depp
3. Viggo Mortensen
4. George Clooney
5. Tommy Lee Jones
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BRIAN

To get this over with, Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing, and his role as Daniel Plainview will probably go down as one of the best all-time. I will join the masses in picking him for the best of the year, perhaps the best of the decade. Simply unbelievable.

The other competition: I wanted to see Michael Clayton again before passing judgment on George Clooney, but due to larger-than-expected crowds at the Arlington Drafthouse, I didn’t get the opportunity. But from what I remember, Clooney was good, but not great. He was overshadowed by his supporting cast (Wilkinson, Swinton, even Sydney Pollack). I don’t get the adoration over Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd…he brooded with the same scowl the entire film; he was better in Pirates. But I also don’t get the overall love of Sweeney Todd…so at least I’m consistent.

Viggo was awesome in Eastern Promises, and the knife fight in the bath house was incredible. It was also an interesting turn from his role in Cronenberg’s previous, A History of Violence. Yet I never got the sense that he dominated the film, probably because Naomi Watts was the focus. Lastly, the nomination that almost wasn’t, Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah. I heard lots of buzz early on about him, then because the movie fell flat, he was forgotten. Watching it now, I can see why he was nominated, but Tommy Lee Jones was just playing himself…and the same role he’s played for the past 10 years: the craggy face, resigned outlook, and Texas drawl.

In another year, I may have supported any of these guys for Best Actor, but not with Daniel Day. Wow.

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JOHN

After months of hearing about Day-Lewis’s front-runner status I was a bit underwhelmed by his performance when I finally saw There Will Be Blood. I probably expected too much, which isn’t his fault, but the door was open for someone else to win me over in this category. Depp I think was a weak nomination since he’s expected to lead a musical and he’s not a terribly good singer. Jones’s nomination came out of left field and he was very good, allowing brief glimpses of emotion in a film that doesn’t do subtlety well. Mortensen I liked a lot. But the only contender to Day-Lewis is Clooney, who I thought did a remarkable job. It’s the type of performance that struck me as a very good anchor for the film the first time I saw Michael Clayton, but I loved him in my second viewing. He is everything that Day-Lewis isn’t: understated, saying a lot with small facial expressions, quietly in turmoil. It was really nailed home for me near the end of the film, as Michael is getting chewed out by his hit and run client. His eye gives a little annoyed tick and you can just see the tipping point as he ponders what shit his life has become. Everything about Michael feels right.

But who am I kidding? Clooney’s great but he’s no Day-Lewis. People will be talking about this big, entrancing, masterful performance for decades to come. It’s not as big a lock for me as it is for some, but it’s still a fairly easy choice.

Snubs: I would’ve liked to see Ryan Gosling for Lars and the Real Girl over Depp or Jones. I know he’s technically not eligible, but his film got a commercial release in 2007 so I’ll mention him anyway: the late great Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others. Tommy Lee Jones is downright exuberant in In the Valley of Elah compared to the blank slate of Mühe’s Gerd Weisler. But the man made every look and minute facial expression say so much as his devout Communist begins to change his loyalties. Also Chris Cooper would’ve made a good choice for Breach.
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JARED

This category is chock-full of big names and bigger performances. Most years, just about each one of these actors could have deservedly won the Oscar. I like George Clooney as much as the next guy (though not girl, probably), but I’ not seeing the appeal for a nod here, particularly over Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone. Maybe that’s part of my anti-Michael Clayton stance. We can all agree that Tommy Lee Jones is explicitly playing solely one character in his movies, right? I’ve seen: Elah, No Country, Man of the House (in theaters!), and MIB I and II, and I’m going to assume at least: Three Burials, Rules of Engagement, and U.S. Marshals. I happen to like the character, so I’m cool with a nod here – nothing more, though. When I’m looking for a grizzled investigator/law enforcement type who says a lot without saying much at all and knows more than everyone else, I think I know where to look. My youngest brother will be disappointed, but I’m putting Viggo thid. Again, I blame the spartan script. Props for the bathroom scene, naturally, but in this tough field, a limiting script looms large.

Obviously, Depp places second here. I do hope he gets his Oscar. Maybe he can do it by playing Susan Lucci? Other than he was going up against a truly great performance, Benjamin Barker may have been a bit too much in his wheelhouse (dark Tim Burton role). Which is, admittedly, a weak argument, but he wins in most years, so what can I say? Leaving Daniel Day-Lewis as my pick. There’s no way I can add anything meaningful to what has already been written about his performance, so I won’t even try.