So why does Penn have his Magic Retard FaceTM on the whole movie? Was he just trying to stack the deck for the Academy, worried that playing gay and martyred wasn't enough?
Maybe. Sean Penn seems to get a lot more credit than he deserves as an actor. How many good performances has he given over the last decade? But sadly, his brother Michael Penn seems to get almost no credit at all for being one of the better singer/songwriters of his generation.
I'll grant that Penn's stuff (Michael, I mean) isn't designed to be hugely commercial. But, to my ears it's incredibly catchy and smart; pop music for people who read. And I'd argue that what he does--finding new and clever and beautiful ways of saying things which have been said millions of times--is harder than putting on a Magic Retard FaceTM by an order of magnitude.
But to restore your faith in the Academy, how great is it that Melissa Leo got a nomination? She's a total stud.