Always vote for someone named “Daniel”

Day-Lewis Has Edge in Tight Best Actor Oscar Race
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – One of the hardest categories to call this Oscar season is the best actor race, in which four past winners are pitted against newcomer Adrien Brody.
Brody’s performance in the title role of “The Pianist” put him in league with some of acting’s heavyweights. But the favorite going into today’s Oscar ceremony is Daniel Day-Lewis, for his delightful turn as the wickedly magnetic villain Bill “the Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.”
Day-Lewis, 45, an intense actor who won the Oscar for his performance as a quadriplegic in the 1989 film, “My Left Foot,” and Brody are up against Oscar veteran and Hollywood favorite Jack Nicholson, who delivered an uncharacteristically toned-down performance as a retiree in “About Schmidt.”
Also nominated are two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine, who plays a journalist in Saigon during the 1950s in “The Quiet American,” and Nicolas Cage, who previously won for “Leaving Las Vegas,” as a tormented screenwriter struggling to adapt a novel for a movie in “Adaptation.”
With all the makings of a cliffhanger, some Oscar watchers admit they are confounded, while others are ready to put their cards on the table.
“The contest is between Day-Lewis and Adrien Brody,” said Oscar pundit Tom O’Neil. “Day-Lewis gives the kind of scenery-chewing, grand performance that Oscar voters love, and he is also considered an actor’s actor,” he said.
The eccentric actor, known for his extensive preparation and for immersing himself in his roles, worked in a butcher shop to prepare for his role as Bill, a butcher by vocation who is also a Manhattan crime lord during the anarchic Civil War era.
But O’Neil and others also say that Brody may well be the category’s wild card.
“He is the only newcomer against four past winners in a movie that Oscar voters like a lot and may want to reward in a top category,” O’Neil said. “The myth is that they prefer the veterans and the industry favorites, but in fact they like to crown newcomers.”
“The Pianist,” which features Brody as Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman during his harrowing survival of Nazi-occupied Warsaw, was directed by Roman Polanski, whose mother perished in a concentration camp.
In the career-defining title role, Brody, a native New Yorker who won attention in Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam,” has been hailed as one of his generation’s finest actors.
The searing Holocaust drama won best film and best director awards at both Britain’s Bafta and France’s Cesar annual awards in February, beating stiff competition from the glitzy musical “Chicago” and the emotional drama “The Hours.”
But despite the European honors, Hollywood is still unlikely to reward Polanski, a once-vilified fugitive who fled the country in the 1970s after a statutory rape conviction.
And so the Academy may opt to honor Brody, in an indirect nod to Polanski.
Still, Brody and Day-Lewis are up against Nicholson, the most nominated actor in Oscar history. His portrayal of a retired Omaha, Nebraska actuary on a journey of self-discovery in “About Schmidt” was considered by some to be his best acting to date, as well as a refreshing switch from his typicallyshowy roles.
“We’ve never seen him play anything like that before, there’s no ‘Jack’ in that guy,” said Leonard Maltin, a movie critic and co-host for the television show “Hot Tickets.”
“He submerges into that incredible, droning Midwestern guy, and he’s great.”
Nicholson, 65, who most recently took home the best actor Oscar for the 1998 film “As Good As it Gets,” has been nominated for an Oscar 12 times, making him the most nominated actor in the history of the Academy Awards.
“I’d say its a very tough race and I’m glad I don’t have to vote,” Maltin said. “But if I were to vote, I’d split my vote between Nicholson and Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis’ character is unlike anything we’ve seen before, while Nicholson disappeared into that character,” he said.
“Those are the front runners in the my mind, although more people seem to be seeing ‘The Pianist’ and they’re very impressed with Adrien Brody.”