Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Countdown: Best Actor

The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards will air live on Thursday, January 12th on VH1. Hosted by Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital) and Paul Scheer (The League), the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards will feature a special award, the 5th Annual Joel Siegel Humanitarian Award, given to Sean Penn as well as an award for director Martin Scorsese. As we countdown to January 12th I am profiling the nominees in each of the major categories.

Today: Best Actor

George Clooney – The Descendants

Because he came from TV, George Clooney’s dramatic acting has always been underestimated. We didn’t expect his romantic vulnerability and potential for depth and warmth in Up in the Air and we didn’t expect the remarkable lack of movie star pretense he brings to The Descendants. George Clooney so willingly subjects himself to humiliation in The Descendants that you can’t help but feel sorry for him. He throws his body and soul into the humiliated, clueless man at the center of The Descendants and the good nature he brings to his suffering makes his character completely lovable.

Leo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood

Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar

When Clint Eastwood began casting J. Edgar it’s unlikely that the name Leonardo DiCaprio was at the top of his list of actors to portray the legendary former dictator of the FBI. Though he likely wasn’t the director’s first choice, the risk taken by Clint Eastwood by betting on DiCaprio and some serious make-up, paid off with a nimble and textured performance from DiCaprio.

Leo brings life to the weasely and ambitious side of Hoover and the sad, scared little boy side reflected by Hoover’s relationship with his mother (Judi Dench) and his closeted relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). It’s an excellent performance and one that deserves some recognition.

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

It’s easy to underestimate the difficulty of acting without words. Words are tools for actors that they get used to tweaking and twisting to communicate their story. Take away words and an actor must find other more complex ways to communicate with the audience. Jean Dujardin’s best weapon in The Artist is a big wide smile and a twinkle in his eye that dims throughout as his 1920’s silent film star begins to fade. It’s a remarkable performance as Dujardiin never fails to let us know what his fading movie star is feeling even without the words to tell us what he’s thinking.

Michael Fassbender – Shame

As one of the few critics not sold on the brilliance of Shame, I’m not in the best place to talk up Michael Fassbender’s performance. That being said, I can say Fassbender is fearless in the role of a man whose sexual compulsion controls him. Whether you’re able to find understanding or pity for him however, is questionable. Personally, I didn’t buy the idea that his character, Brandon, couldn’t get his passion under control and thus my sympathies weren’t engaged.

Ryan Gosling – Drive

I have been waiting for Ryan Gosling to become an award winning actor since his nearly forgotten performance as a snaky teenage killer in Murder By Numbers. With Drive, Gosling has fully arrived as an actor who will be competing for Hollywood’s highest honors for years to come. Gosling’s nameless driver in Nicholas Winding Refn’s engrossing, volcanic thriller Drive is one of the most unique anti-heroes we’ve seen on the big screen in years and it’s a tremendous performance.

Brad Pitt – Moneyball

The reason Moneyball is more than just a baseball movie is the performance of Brad Pitt. As Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, Brad Pitt crafts a very human, very compelling character whose troubles and the way he manages them helps Moneyball transcend the trappings of a sports movie. Yes, Moneyball still hits many of the same beats of the sports movie but thanks to Brad Pitt’s brilliant performance, non-sports fans are as compelled and entertained as hardcore A’s fans.

The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards air on Thursday, January 12th at 8 Pm Eastern, 7 Pm central. Vote for your favorite of these Best Actor nominees at

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