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Thursday, February 10, 2011
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WHY BALE WILL HOLD OFF RUSH

The sense around town is that best picture favorite “The King’s Speech” is only continuing to pick up momentum as the close of voting nears, perhaps to such an extent that it could even carry along on its coattails some smaller categories in which it once seemed to be a long-shot. It seems to me that anyone who likes the film has to like not only Colin Firth, who plays the eponymous monarch, but also Geoffrey Rush, who plays his comedic foil, a somewhat eccentric Average Joe who serves as the audience’s surrogate. So, if Firth is such a sure thing to win best actor (and he is), then why isn’t Rush to win best supporting actor? If anyone would benefit from a “King’s Speech” tidal wave, wouldn’t it be him?

The answer: possibly, but probably not. Why? Firstly, because Christian Bale (“The Fighter”), his chief rival for this year’s prize (who is also extraordinary in his film), has defeated Rush to win virtually every major Oscar-precursor’s best supporting actor award up to this point — indeed, only Eddie Murphy (“Dreamgirls”) has ever won the best supporting actor Critics Choice Award, Golden Globe Award, and SAG Award, as Bale has, but still lost the Oscar. Secondly, Bale has conducted himself admirably in the process — he got off to a bumpy start by giving a few abrasive interviews, but settled in nicely and gave some of the most gracious and endearing acceptance speeches of the season. Thirdly, because Rush has already won an Oscar (and scored two other nods prior to this year’s) whereas Bale was never so much as nominated prior to this year. And, fourthly, because Academy members — for whatever reason(s) — have historically split up the male acting Oscars between performances from two different films. In fact, only four times in the 73 years in which both categories have previously been presented (or 5.5% of the time) have they both honored performances from the same film:

Photo: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech.” Credit: The Weinstein Company.

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