Bill Murray could upend the Best Actor race with “St. Vincent”

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The already overcrowded Best Actor race is about to get even tighter folks. Last night I attended the premiere of St. Vincent and got to see Bill Murray’s performance, which is awards worthy, let me tell you. Murray combines his comedy and drama skills in such a way that I think Academy members might find it hard to resist him. As I’ve said for months now, the Best Actor race is going to be a bloodbath, something that’s only more true now that contenders are screening and performances are showing that they are indeed worthy of consideration. The latest here is Murray’s in St. Vincent, one that could ultimately wind up going a lot further than some think.

For those of you who don’t know, the movie is a comedy/dramedy about a curmudgeonly older man (played by Murray) in Brooklyn who winds up babysitting his frazzled neighbor’s son. He gives him the sort of real world/bad advice you’re used to in things like this, but then the second half of the film goes in a very different direction and winds up tugging at your heartstrings in a big way. Murray obviously stars, with Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Naomi Watts, and Jaeden Lieberher in the other main roles. Theodore Melfi writes and directs.

This is a pretty good film, but it’s Murray who elevates things, along with the cast on the whole. While McCarthy and Watts are strong in roles that are reversed from what they normally do, Murray gets to combine all of his skills to give what I think is one of his top five performances to date. At times he’s channeling his early comedic persona while at other moments he’s playing it completely straight. I won’t spoil things by saying some of the situations where he’s forced to really go dramatic, but he absolutely nails them.

What will help St. Vincent out is of course the fact that Harvey Weinstein is behind it. He knows how to make this sort of push happen, which is only helped by the fact that Murray is out and about promoting it. He’s done Q and A’s, gone to parties, etc…all of which helps to endear him to Academy members. As we all know, voters like to be courted, so if Murray is willing to play the game, that could give him a leg up on some of his competition.

On the flip side, Weinstein has other horses in the race, particularly Best Actor competition Benedict Cumberbatch from The Imitation Game. That could complicate things, to say the least. Critics will likely be behind Cumberbatch more so than Murray, which sometimes can influence Oscar voters. Not always, but sometimes. If The Weinstein Company is forced to choose between the two, Murray could suffer.

We’ll have a better idea of how Murray will do once the precursors start up. A charming performance like Murray’s can start picking up smaller awards left and right, which upends the race to some degree. There’s no way of knowing which actor will break free of the pack, but Murray is one that you have to consider as a contender. It wouldn’t shock me if he missed cracking the lineup, but it wouldn’t shock me either if he wound up winning Best Actor when all is said and done.

In the end, it’s all still a guess, but Murray is moving up my Best Actor list now, that’s for sure. In fact, when I update my predictions in full, I’m going to have to at least consider making him my new number one. Yes, he’s that good. Time will tell how St. Vincent fares as an awards player, but one thing is for sure…Murray deserves the consideration he’s getting for the title role.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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