The 18th Annual SAG Award nominations were released this morning, accompanied by the usual bitching and moaning over who was or wasn’t on the list. Nominations by committee are bound to come up with some head-scratchers, and there’s nothing we fans can do but complain and question the mental capacity of the voters.
However, one oversight — one travesty, really — cannot be allowed to quietly slip by: Why wasn’t Albert Brooks nominated as outstanding supporting actor in Drive, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s revisionist noir thriller. It’s unthinkable! And while that ship has sailed, allow me to make the case for Mr. Brooks deserving an Academy Award nomination. (The Golden Globe nods come out tomorrow, so it’s too late to change any minds there…)
In my opinion, Brooks turned in the best supporting performance in a motion picture since Martin Landau’s Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning take on Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s masterful Ed Wood back in 1994. And that’s saying something. Brooks was an effective bad guy by underplaying, rather than chewing the scenery.
A as the sinister Bernie Rose in Drive, Brooks was the epitome of small-time hood who thought he was big-time. Brooks played Bernie as a neighborhood bully writ large; he was just plain mean. But since he runs a territory, he has the power to wreak havoc on those around him. And the power of life and death went to his head. Brooks portrayed a figure of pure menace — no one wanted to see Bernie darken their doorway, nor did they want to visit the pizza shop, where the cutlery could cut your life short.
But what was really interesting to me was how Bernie turned meek around the hulking Nino (played by Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman) and those bosses higher up in the food chain. Bernie became almost obsequious around the bosses, and he was clearly frightened by Nino. However, when he was around those less powerful than himself — like Breaking Bad vet Bryan Cranston’s Shannon — Bernie was stone-cold.
There’s a great bit when Ryan Gosling’s nameless Driver character is introduced to Bernie the moneyman. Bernie extends his hand, but the Driver declines to shake it.
Driver: My hands are a little dirty.
Bernie: So are mine.
Bernie takes being a thug, a money-launderer and a killer in stride; like he’s any other small businessman on the block. He’s a big fish in a small pond — just not as big as he thinks he is.
While I’m on the subject of outstanding Drive performances, Carey Mulligan was astonishingly sympathetic as the stock character Irene — the brave single mom with a creepazoid loser husband. The role was completely underwritten, but Mulligan made something out of nothing, and got me to root for Irene and the Driver to hook up. Perhaps Mulligan’s best moment came in Irene reacting to the Driver’s… uh, rather forceful act of self-defense in the elevator.
But there can be no defense for SAG bypassing the great Albert Brooks. In a sense, the guild pulled off its own Drive-by shooting.
The SAG Awards will be handed out on Jan. 29, 2012.
ETA: On Dec. 15, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association did indeed nominate Brooks for a Golden Globe in the category Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Congrats, Albert!