George Clooney vs. Jean Dujardin: Who Ya Got?

As the days tick down to the Oscars, the race seems to be tightening between two impossibly handsome and bronzed gentlemen: Jean Dujardin and George Clooney.  Unfortunately, Gary Oldman appears to be the dark – but far more deserving – horse. That's a topic for another day, though.

I'm an unabashed admirer of Dujardin, who I met thanks to a trailer for Lucky Luke (a 2009 film some canny American distributor will hopefully snap up and re-release post-Oscars).  Lucky Luke and Cinebeats led me to OSS: 117 and a crush that I pushed onto others was born.  The following success of The Artist, and Dujardin's freshly minted star status, has been a real joy. He deserves the accolades, and many of us have been impatient to see more of him on this side of the ocean.

It's popular to hate on The Artist right now. I won't. I liked it (as evidenced by my top ten) and it's because of Dujardin that it works. He's handsome, spry, and a rogueish throwback to Hollywood's Golden Era. The Artist wisely banks on this to the absolute fullest.  Sure, he's mugging and imitating, but he's doing it so lightly that it's fun and forgivable.  When most actors go retro, they do so too heavily and cartoonishly. (See: J. Edgar or The Aviator.) Dujardin does it with genuine enjoyment and fun.  If you told me he climbed out of a time machine from the 1920s, I would consider it a logical explanation.

It's precisely all of this, and his good-natured turn on the press junkets, that I suspect he'll take home Best Actor. I'm not blinded enough to say that he deserves it, and he certainly shouldn't have gotten a nomination over Michael Fassbender. But I won't hate on him for it. Come on, all he did was frolic with Uggie the dog. He didn't know the Weinsteins would package him into an Oscar nominee.

He'll win not only because he's the spitting image of a 1920s screen idol, but because the Academy loves to write tales of plucky, funny foreigners who spring out of nowhere (career in France notwithstanding) to win American moviegoing hearts.   It doesn't matter The Artist isn't doing super well at the box office, dang it, it's a narrative: America loves Dujardin.  (They should, but being told they love someone often works against the PR. Also, come on, there's a Liam Neeson-fights-things movie out. Who is going to go see the silent, black and white one?)

But don't discount the other smoothly handsome brunette, America's answer to Jean Dujardin, George Clooney himself, who is still a contender. And again, he's good in The Descendants – perfectly schlubby and sad, his looks rumpled just so, and thus totally believable as your friend's dad or husband.  I've always liked Clooney, but I've been loudly skeptical he could ever play "normal" until The Descendants rolled along.

However, it's not Clooney's best performance.  It's not career defining. It's not even year defining. It's just solid, the sort of character you used to see in films before they became relentlessly immature. The Academy – so fond of thunderous performances otherwise – has lost sight of that, and is overwhelmed with Clooney's completeness.

If Clooney wins, it will be because he's now a Hollywood Icon, the beyond A-List multi-hyphenate that everyone wants a photo and handshake with.  If you nominate him, he will walk your red carpet, and if he wins, you and your significant other will get to meet him. So circle his name on the ballot, voters, and then he'll drop by the big party.  (I snark, but I want one for Facebook. So do you.)

Still, Clooney's got one, so my money is on Dujardin – a bubbly narrative with a sizzle real of tap-dancing seems like something the Oscars can't resist.  Unless Oldman steals it at the 11th hour (and that too is a storyline the Oscars love), I think it is Dujardin's to lose.

But really, the winner is us.  Given the cuddling and joking these two did at the Oscar luncheon, I feel like they may merge into one lusciously brown-eyed force of hunkiness bent on world domination and we will be powerless to resist.  Next year's Best Picture: Jean-George Cloonardin reads the phone book alongside the dog from The Artist. Best Actor: Jean-George Cloonardin.  Best Supporting Actor: Uggie the dog.  Worldwide Box Office Gross: Uncountable bajillions of dollars.

And you know what? As George Valentine would say... "with pleasure."