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EW's critics have two Best Actors to Crowe about

He Said/She Said: EW’s critics have two Best Actors to Crowe about. And in the finest tradition of lofty debate, there’s some bitch-slapping going on

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Owen Gleiberman
Owen Gleiberman Illustration by Eric Palma

EW’s critics have two Best Actors to Crowe about

Owen Gleiberman
March 6, 2002 12:03 PM

We haven’t really gotten too much into predictions, have we? I don’t know about you, Lisa, but I tend to leave that stuff to the Vegas oddsmakers, and to the even savvier oddsmakers on our staff. But this year, in the category of Best Actor, I feel like I have to start with a prediction, because it says so much about where the Academy is coming from these days. Basically, I buy the conventional wisdom that Russell Crowe, despite his pronounced tendency to bitch-slap the people who don’t broadcast his award-show poems, is going to win for ”A Beautiful Mind,” taking home his second Oscar in a row, after winning for ”Gladiator” last year. Personally, I think Crowe’s ”Beautiful Mind” performance is brilliant (more on that in a moment), but consider just how odd this double win would have seemed, say, 15 years ago.

Back then, we’d all be saying that the fact that Crowe had won LAST year was the single biggest thing going against him. Now, it’s like, Sure, he won last year, he’ll win this year, he’ll win the next 17 years in a row — what’s the big deal? I think this is a sign of the way that Tom Hanks has changed the Oscars. The Academy used to insist more on spreading the honors around. But Hanks’ multiple wins in the ’90s became a form of canonization — in effect, the new template for how to be crowned not just Best Actor but Star of the Moment. When Crowe wins this year, he’ll essentially be usurping Hanks’ role as the new king of Hollywood. Which tells me that we’re starting to move, as a culture, away from neo-Jimmy Stewart niceness and over to neo-Brando nihilism.