Michael Stuhlbarg gives such an impressive performance as a 1960s suburban poppa whose life crumbles in "A Serious Man" that he's a good bet to be nominated for best actor at the Golden Globes. The comedy/musical category is light, and the filmmakers behind "A Serious Man," Joel and Ethan Coen, are Hollywood hipsters whose movies get noticed at kudofests.
But what about the Oscars? There, competition is fierce and Stuhlbarg -- a Tony-nominated Broadway veteran with little experience in Hollywood films -- must compete against numerous movie A-listers like Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), George Clooney ("Up in the Air") and Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"). But that may not matter. Nominations are determined only by members of the academy's acting branch, who are snobs who often make a special effort to include their lesser-known brethren from small indie films and theater, like nominees Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") and David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck") and winners F. Murray Abraham ("Amadeus") and Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi").
"A Serious Man" scores 79 at Metacritic.com. Kenneth Turan writes in the L.A. Times review: "Writer-directors Joel and Ethan have seized the opportunity afforded by the Oscar-winning success of 'No Country for Old Men,' to make their most personal, most intensely Jewish film, a pitch-perfect comedy of despair that, against some odds, turns out to be one of their most universal as well. ... Working largely with unfamiliar actors, their trademark blurring of the line between serious and comic has never been as artfully done as it is here."
USA Today notes that that "overall saga hinges on Stuhlbarg's pitch-perfect performance," adding, "The Coens have said they were looking for a face that would be unfamiliar to film audiences. Stuhlbarg is primarily a stage actor, and his casting is brilliant."
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Photo credit: Focus Features