Kevin Costner received his only acting nomination so far for portraying Lieutenant John J. Dunbar in Dances with Wolves.
It must have really ensured Dances with Wolves victory when Kevin Costner was nominated for both best director, as well actor over Goodfellas' lead Ray Liotta. Actor directing themselves can turn out quite well when said actor is both a strong actor, and a strong director, such as my winners Robert Duvall in the Apostle, or Laurence Olivier and his Shakespeare trilogy, because they can create brilliantly attuned performances to themselves.
It sometimes doesn't work though when the actor has problems handling themselves whether it is preventing their own over the topness, Robert Benigni in Life is Beautiful, or failing to bring out life in their own performance like Ed Harris in Pollock, Kevin Costner falls into the latter category of not working and the latter category how one can fail to work.
I think the first thing that should be noted is his narration, I suppose his narration shows you why good narration actually should not be taken for granted. Costner narrates from time to time in the film with the dullest possible. It is really is terrible how dull he narrates the film, he could put a little life into it but he doesn't rather speaking like how a person reads a book when he really doesn't care.
Costner unfortuantely is not much better in his rest of his performance either. Costner really tries to direct himself with absolutely no shame whether it is showing his bare buttocks or more egregiously doing his Christ like pose when he does a suicide charge during the opening of the film. He really does indulge much too much in himself, and the problem is he is not really up to his own focus.
Costner as Dunbar likes to give many reaction shots at the beginning of the film, which tend to amount to him making a face of "Yeah that's right I'm acting thinking sort of" all of his reactions leave a whole lot to be desired, and he never really suggests more than that Dunbar is a rather dull man who reacts dully to everything which occurs on in life.
I held no empathy with his character because of his extremely dull and tiresome portrayal of Dunbar. Dunbar just always seems uninteresting because Costner never conveys anything of interest in this performance. It is just one dull lacking moment after another with Dunbar, I felt no sense that I was having a journey with Costner rather I was just watching Kevin Costner act dully, and give into indulgences whenever he had a change.
A performance in a long epic like this needs to hold the screen with a charisma, or strong presence, Costner has neither despite the fact he shoves himself in the middle of the screen whenever he has a good chance to. Costner as an actor leaves far too much to be desired but as a leading man he leaves even more, with this almost lifeless performance, that fails to carry his film.