Casey Affleck Should Have Won His Oscar in 2007

It would appear that Casey Affleck is one of those shoe-in awards for the Oscars next month that betting agents hate. With his leading performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, Affleck has garnered praise from his contemporaries, critics and audiences at large.

For many, the performance cements his worthiness for the golden statue. But it’s not the first time that Affleck has been nominated for acting’s most coveted prize. Or even the first time that his career and talent has been deemed praiseworthy enough for an Academy Award.

Back in 2007, Affleck delivered one of the best on-screen supporting performances in recent memory. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford still remains as one of the most criminally underrated masterpieces of American cinema of the past four decades. Mark Kermode even went as far as stating that historians a hundred years from now will see it as a “neglected masterpiece,” of the mid-to-late 2000’s.

Affleck’s performance as the eponymous Ford is an understated yet intensely powerful experience that allows Andrew Dominik’s film to confidently pose the question: who really is the villain here? What are we to make of such a figure like Jesse James in history; has the idea of James and the outlaw gang and their doings been subject to fabrication? Assassination certainly attempts to deal with the mythopoeia of American history through its narrative.

Affleck expertly embodies Ford with emotional and psychological contradiction true to the real-life man. Hate and admiration for Jesse, the struggle to break away from dancing in the shadow of his older brother, a false sense of justice mixed with the thrill of violent crime.

Casey Affleck should have won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Dominik’s film in 2007. He probably would have if he wasn’t up against Javier Bardem’s turn in the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men. Both films were westerns, one contemporary, one part-noir, part-classic. In the end, The Assassination of Jesse James fell by the wayside only making half of its budget back in box office figures.

Yet the film was and still stands now as a true masterpiece of modern American cinema. It is a deliberate, beautiful, harsh and intelligent retrospective of American history: its savagery, inherent violence and myth-making. Affleck’s performance as Bob Ford should have earned its place in Awards history in the same way.

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