George Clooney “lucky” for roles like “The Descendants” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell If the 2011 Oscar race needed to be described in one word, I’d choose, “Uncertainty.” Despite strong showings by a handful of films – from “The Help” and “The Artist” to Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” – no film has grabbed the proverbial brass ring and declared itself a frontrunner.

Last year at this time, Oscar pundits were debating “The King’s Speech” versus “The Social Network” (and both films, by this point of the race, had screened for critics). This year? Some are still holding out for the largely unscreened triumverate of “War Horse,” “”Extremely Loud and Dangerously Close” and David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

But George Clooney’s performance in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” has stood above the fray from the minute this rewarding drama world premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September.

“There’s plenty to chew on regarding family connections, heritage, loyalty to one’s location in life, the cycles we go through when confronting death, and the challenge of being a stable force during trying times,” I wrote from the Toronto International Film Festival after seeing Payne’s film. “But Clooney’s an outstanding guide on this journey, and I’m confident we’ll see his name in the Best Actor race as the marathon continues.”

And so we reach the point where you can see what so many of us have been talking and writing about for months. “The Descendants” opens in theaters. It’s a special film. An honest film. It addresses personal issues, and offsets them with Payne’s quirky humor. And it boasts a jaw-dropping performance by Clooney, who somehow ignores every trick in his acting arsenal yet still wins our heart with a vulnerable side that solidifies him as one of our strongest working actors.

If you ask him, though, he’s just lucky.

That was Clooney’s message when he accepted the Hollywood Actor Award for his “Descendants” performance last month. It’s an extremely humble speech, one laced with wit and self-awareness. Just like the man, himself.

Here’s exclusive video of Clooney from that gala, as his latest film, “The Descendants,” opens in theaters. Could it be the first of many acceptance speeches he makes as the awards season rolls on?

In addition, we have “Descendants” interviews with Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, and the kid co-stars of Payne’s Oscar-worthy drama. It opens in theaters today, so be sure and check it out.

For complete Oscar and film festival coverage, visit our awards alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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