Song of the Day #5,346: ‘The Rowan Tree’ – Lisa Knapp

My family holds an annual Oscar nomination pool, predicting the eight major categories, and invariably we all do very well in Best Actor. For some reason, great male lead performances are few and far between in recent years. I’m sure there’s an analysis to be written on that topic but I’ll save it for another day.

For now, I’ll give my own preferred lineup in the 2022 Best Actor category, starting with just a few honorable mentions.

I’m still sore that Ralph Fiennes didn’t get a nomination, let alone the deserved win, for his turn in 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. This year he was deliciously malevolent in The Menu, a film that was ultimately ignored completely by the Academy.

Daryl McCormack, a new face to me, more than held his own paired up with the formidable Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

And Austin Butler, a favorite to win this award on Oscar night, gave a dynamic physical performance in Elvis. He might have made my top five if I didn’t have an inherent bias against biopics nabbing acting honors.

My personal nominees are…

Colin Ferrell – The Banshees of Inisherin
I’m pulling for Ferrell to take home this award on Oscar night, though I fear he will fall short. His lovely work in this film is probably too subtle for the Academy’s taste. His sweetly dim Pádraic suffers the rejection of his kindness and decency, and we see that pain in every line of Ferrell’s face.

Daniel Kaluuya – Nope
Kaluuya won an Oscar for his fiery work in Judas and the Last Messiah, the polar opposite of the internal, melancholy performance he gives here. That he can handle both extremes so well is part of what makes him one of our best actors.

Gabriel LaBelle – The Fablemans
It seems like every other actor in this movie had Oscar buzz (and two were nominated) while the young man at the center of it all went unmentioned. As a newcomer anchoring a Steven Spielberg film — playing a version of Spielberg himself, no less — LaBelle is charming, thoughtful and driven. This wonderful movie wouldn’t work if he wasn’t great in it.

Paul Mescal – Aftersun
This is one of my favorite kinds of performances — a portrayal of a regular guy having regular human interactions, acting and reacting so naturally that you forget what you’re watching is scripted. Mescal delivers some heartbreaking emotional moments but it was the awkward in-betweens that really hooked me.

Bill Nighy – Living
My list for this category is filled with quiet, internal performances, and Nighy is yet another example. Playing a man facing the end of his life, he exudes grace and dignity. Having recently turned 50, movies and roles like this one touch me even more.

And the winner is… Colin Ferrell. May the Academy follow my lead!

Oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree
Thou’lt aye be dear to me
Entwined thou art wi’ many ties
Of hame and infancy
Thy leaves were aye the first of spring
Thy flowers the summer’s pride
There was nae such a bonnie tree
In all the country sideHow fair were thou in summer time
With all thy clusters white
How rich and gay thy autumn dress,
Wi’ berries red and bright.
On thy fair stem were many names
Which now no more I see
But they’re engraven on my heart,
Forget they ne’er can beWe sat beneath thy spreadin’ shade
The bairnies round thee ran
They pu’d they bonnie berries red,
And necklaces they strang
My mother, oh! I see her still,
She smiled our sports to see
With little Jeannie on her lap,
And Jamie on her knee.

8 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,346: ‘The Rowan Tree’ – Lisa Knapp

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Though I have yet to see The Whale, I suspect it will be Brendan Fraser taking home the Oscar, unless it goes to Austin Butler who, despite your biopic bias, turned in a great performance as Elvis.

  2. Peg says:

    I would be happy with Colin Ferrell but equally happy with Austin Butler or Bill Nighy.

  3. Amy says:

    As I’m reading your post, I realize I misplaced McCormack by picking him as one of my Supporting Actor picks. While he is clearly supporting the main character, played by Emma, he is the male lead in the film. Pedro Pascal could also arguably be called a co-lead in Unbearable Weight, so, given the dearth of competition in this category, I’m moving them here.

    They’ll be joined by Butler, LaBelle and Colin Firth, who I, too, hope takes home the Oscar.

    I’m filling my two vacant Supporting Actor picks with Thirteen Lives’ Viggo Mortensen (though it could easily be either of his two co-stars, Colin Farrell yet again demonstrating his excellence! Or Joel Edgerton, whose moral dilemma was made achingly obvious with every expression he made). Maddie reminded the last spot should go to Steven Yeun from Nope.

  4. Maddie says:

    I would throw a little love to Miles Teller or Tom Cruise for helming the Top Gun Maverick ship as well as they did.

    Daryl McCormack has been a lovely surprise this year – first impressing me with his work in Bad Sisters before I finally got around to seeing him shine as Leo Grande.

    In the introspective train, I think Colin Farrell (who I will root for on Oscar night and every other night of the year) would have been deserving for his After Yang performance as well.

    I think Billy Eichner absolutely crushed it in Bros as well.

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