Jeff Bridges is an actor with wide range, eloquence and a new Oscar nomination
A gun dangles and a mustache catches dust as eyes of earned and battered wisdom scour the scrub lands. Jeff Bridges’ righteous Texas Ranger in “Hell or High Water” is a folksy man of grit whose sense of justice, like his drawl, keep his compass set when the bad guys ride and the storm gathers.
The part of unwavering Marcus Hamilton gave Bridges his seventh Academy Award nomination in a supporting or leading role. He won his first Oscar in 2010 for his portrayal of an alcoholic troubadour in “Crazy Heart,” another role in which age and experience — although in vastly different personalities — lift a man into fable.
“Woke up this morning in beautiful Solana Beach after playing a cool gig at the Belly Up with my band the Abiders to find out I’ve been nominated for my performance,” Bridges said in a statement Tuesday morning. “What a thrill.”
WINNER: Best picture; Actor in a supporting role - Mahershala Ali; adapted screenplay | NOMINATED: directing - Barry Jenkins; actress in a supporting role - Naomie Harris; cinematography; original score; film editing(David Bornfriend / A24)
WINNER: actress in a leading role - Emma Stone; directing - Damien Chazelle; cinematography; production design; original score; original song - “City of Stars” | NOMINATED: Best picture; actor in a leading role - Ryan Gosling; original screenplay; sound editing; sound mixing; original song - “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”; costume design; film editing(Dale Robinette / Lionsgate)
WINNER: original screenplay; actor in a leading role - Casey Affleck | NOMINATED: Best picture; directing - Kenneth Lonergan; actor in a supporting role - Lucas Hedges; actress in a supporting role - Michelle Williams(Claire Folger / Amazon Studios and Roadside Attr)
WINNER: Actress in a supporting role - Viola Davis | NOMINATED: Best picture; actor in a leading role - Denzel Washington; adapted screenplay(David Lee / Paramount Pictures)
WINNER: sound editing | NOMINATED: Best picture; directing - Denis Villeneuve; adapted screenplay; cinematography; sound mixing; film editing(Jan Thijs / Paramount Pictures)
NOMINATED: Best picture; actress in a supporting role - Octavia Spencer; adapted screenplay(Hopper Stone)
WINNER: sound mixing; film editing | NOMINATED: Directing - Mel Gibson; actor in a leading role - Andrew Garfield; sound editing(Mark Rogers / Summit/Associated Press)
WINNER: costume design | NOMINATED: Production design(Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros. Entertainment and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment)
WINNER: Makeup and hairstyling(Clay Enos / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
WINNER: Animated feature film(Disney)
NOMINATED: Best picture; actor in a supporting role - Jeff Bridges; original screenplay; film editing(Lorey Sebastian / CBS Films/Lionsgate)
NOMINATED: Best picture; actor in a supporting role - Dev Patel; actress in a supporting role - Nicole Kidman; adapted screenplay; cinematography; original score(Mark Rogers)
NOMINATED: Actress in a leading role - Natalie Portman; original score; costume design(Pablo Larrain / Twentieth Century Fox)
NOMINATED: Actor in a leading role - Viggo Mortensen; production design; costume design(Cathy Kanavy / Bleecker Street)
NOMINATED: Actress in a leading role - Meryl Streep; costume design(Nick Wall / Paramount Pictures)
NOMINATED: Actress in a leading role - Ruth Negga(Ben Rothstein / Focus Features)
NOMINATED: Actress in a leading role - Isabelle Huppert(Guy Ferrandis / Sony Pictures Classics via AP)
NOMINATED: Original score - Thomas Newman(Jaimie Trueblood / Sony Pictures)
NOMINATED: Foreign language film; makeup and hairstyling(Johan Bergmark / Music Box Films)
NOMINATED: Makeup and hairstyling(Kimberley French)
NOMINATED: Original screenplay(Merrick Morton / A24)
NOMINATED: Original song - “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
NOMINATED: Original screenplay(Despina Spyrou / Alchemy)
NOMINATED: Visual effects; sound mixing(Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm)
NOMINATED: Animated feature film; original song - “How Far I’ll Go”(Disney)
NOMINATED: Visual effects; animated feature film(LAIKA / Focus Features)
NOMINATED: Animated feature film(Wild Bunch)
NOMINATED: Animated feature film(TIFF)
NOMINATED: Visual effects; sound editing(David Lee)
NOMINATED: Original score - “The Empty Chair”(Manu Brabo / AP)
Bridges has for decades stood before us in full: flake, madman, alien, president, shock jock, smitten boy, plane crash survivor and, of course, The Dude, that abiding, bathrobe-wearing misfit bowler of sideways poetry and fantastical misfortune. In a career that spans more than 70 films, the 67-year-old actor has disappeared into subtleties, whispers, growls and asides like a man who fits perfectly into the clothes of passing strangers.
His characters are often affable and earnest; calm and thoughtful men at home in their imperfections. Whether it’s the one-eyed bounty hunter in “True Grit” or the talk show host seeking redemption in “The Fisher King,” Bridges embodies his roles without strain or strings. Critic Pauline Kael famously called him “the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived.”
He can find wonder in the smallest things. Bridges, who in the late 1950s appeared with his father, Lloyd, and his brother, Beau, in the TV series “Sea Hunt”, is a child of Hollywood. He watched it shift from the power of the studios in the 1960s to the rise of maverick filmmakers who captured the times with realism. He has endured and thrived in parts of eloquence, individuality and wide range.
Ben Foster, Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges star in “Hell or High Water.”
His sexually awakening youth in “The Last Picture Show” (1971), which brought him his first Oscar nomination, was a testament to a nation’s restlessness and change; his alien in “Starman” was a guileless innocent who laid bare human transgression; his whimsical Lightfoot in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” frustrated sidekick Clint Eastwood; and in “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” he was a disillusioned jazz man with a slanting cigarette and Michelle Pfeiffer slinking across his piano.
There are times when the creaky man with the rasp can appear a shade from caricature and mannerism. Bridges rarely crosses that line, though, even when he’s heading with mixed blessings toward deeper truths. The Dude, as they say, abides. That role in the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” was infectious with a shaggy haplessness that turned an imbiber and raconteur into legend.
The Dude is older. Still wild, ready to surprise. The voice, the narrowing eyes, the face that says a book’s worth of things in a glance. But he moves these days not so much with mercurial glee as with ambled grace.
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