I can probably count the number of my friends who saw The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on one hand, while pretty much everyone I know has seen No Country for Old Men. While I loved No Country for Old Men and thought Javier Bardem gave a phenomenal performance, Casey Affleck’s portrayal of Robert Ford was a far more powerful and haunting depiction of a killer than Bardem’s. I wasn’t familiar with Bardem’s work before this film and so I can’t frame his performance in the context of other work. But Affleck is more of a known commodity, a bit actor who is only starting to come into his own. And in The Assassination of Jesse James, Affleck goes so far beyond what we’ve previously seen from him that the quality of his performance in this film stands out even further.
I don’t expect Affleck to win Best Supporting Actor, nor do I expect many people to be disappointed when he doesn’t. But he should.
…And since this is going to be my only Oscar-related post, it’s worth mentioning that I have no clue why Phillip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for his role in Charlie Wilson’s War and not Before the Devil Knows Your Dead – which was as good a performance as I have ever seen Hoffman give – or The Savages. In a year where smaller, artsier films have received great attention from the Academy, it’s ironic that Hoffman’s big budget role is the one that he receives a nomination for over two better, more artistic films.