Friday, October 8, 2010

Oscar Update: Acting Categories

Last week, we looked at the 20 plus films looking for those 10 Best Picture spots, even though that has since changed, since apparently Peter Weir’s The Way Back WILL be released in 2010 afterall It is said to be very grim, but it is the type of film that the Academy could flip for – so I’d certainly add it to the Top 20 – probably even top 10. This week, let’s look at the acting races. I really haven’t added in The Way Back actors, since I don’t have a sense of who will be running, but they should be kept in mind.

Best Actor
1. Colin Firth in The King’s Speech
– Coming off his first nomination in last year’s A Single Man, Firth has new found Oscar cred – and his performance here as King Edward with a speech impediment seems like the stuff Oscar nominations were made of. We know audiences love it as well.
2. James Franco in 127 Hours – James Franco has been circling the Oscars for a while now, never being able to break through. I think his harrowing performance as a man literally trapped between a rock and a hard place will finally get him in. He does the whole movie pretty much solo – which they love.
3. Javier Bardem in Biutiful – The acting branch is willing to nominate darker films here, but not as much in Best Picture. Bardem has become one of the most respected actors in the world, so you know they will watch it, so I think it gets in regardless of how the film does overall.
4. Jessie Eisenberg in The Social Network – Eisenberg has quietly built up quite a resume for himself. Playing a complex lead role in one of the Best Picture frontrunners will certainly help him score here. The critics need to get behind him too though.
5. Jeff Bridges in True Grit – Not many actors have both the balls and the talent to step into a role made iconic by John Wayne. Jeff Bridges is one of them. If he can pull it off, and I have no reason to think he can’t, it is a hell of a role.
6. Robert Duvall in Get Low – They do love Duvall, and his role as a many looking back at his mistakes could touch a chord with the Academy. He will wait to see if anyone ahead of him falters.
7. Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter – He had a breakthrough with The Departed, and its easier to get nominated the second time around. He needs the film to hit big with the Academy though, and since it is unseen, I don’t really know if it will.
8. Paul Giamatti in Barney’s Version – They love Giamatti, and I think this years spanning role could get him back in the race. But, will they really be able to mount an effective campaign for him? When is this coming out?
9. Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine – They love Gosling, and he has gotten great reviews for the film so far. I do wonder though if the late December release date will hamper him, plus the fact that the film is seen widely as an acting movie only, means the film may not have enough support.
10. Jim Broadbent in Another Year – A previous Oscar winner, so you know they like him. A film that is looking like a Best Picture nominee helps in a big way. But everyone talks about Lesly Manville first, which puts him at a disadvantage.

Also: Stephen Dorff in Somewhere will hope that working with Sofia Coppola will jumpstart his career and awards cred. Johnny Depp in The Tourist is someone who they want to give an Oscar to, but is this an Oscar movie? Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs is someone they like, but this is a romcom. Sean Penn in Fair Game is someone they LOVE, but the films buzz has been quiet since it debuted at Cannes. Matt Damon in Hereafter working with Clint often gets actors nominated, but does this film have the support? Robert DeNiro in Stone is someone everyone wants to see return to form, but the film has gotten very mixed reviews. Aaron Eckhart in Rabbit Hole is still looking for Oscar love, but he maybe overshadowed by his female co-stars. Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island/Inception they love Leo, and he has two great performances this year – in films that will either be ignored, or not get noticed for acting. Robert Downey Jr. in Due Date is probably not an Oscar role, but was Tropic Thunder?

Best Actress
1. Natalie Portman in Black Swan
– Career best reviews are already pouring in for her work in this dark thriller. She is already an Oscar nominee, so getting that second nomination is easier than the first. They may or may not respond to it for Best Picture, but for Actress, I think she’s a lock.

2. Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right – One of their favorite actresses – with three nominations but no wins so far – in a smart, critically acclaimed indie film with solid box office, on its way to a Best Picture nod? I think Bening is in.
3. Lesley Manville in Another Year – Even when the Academy doesn’t nominate a Mike Leigh film for Picture – and this one looks it will get in – they often make room for the actors. Manville has one of the most critically acclaimed performances of the year, so I think she’ll overcome the fact that no one knows who she is.
4. Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole – She has not been able to get back in the Oscar race since she won her Oscar back in 2002. But her acclaimed performance in this film – based on a play that was awards bait – should get her back there this year. The film is dark, true, but that doesn’t hurt as much in the acting categories.
5. Jennifer Lawrence in Winters Bone – This year’s “it” girl, she already has great reviews, for a film that was really well liked by critics. They will need to get behind her even more as the season progresses, but it wouldn’t be the first time a gorgeous newcomer got into the race.
6. Sally Hawkins in Made in Dagenham – She has a lot of residual goodwill for just missing here a couple years ago for Happy Go Lucky. In this, a more Academy friendly, crowd pleasing film, she could easily slip in if any of the actress above stumble at some point.
7. Diane Lane in Secretariat – They do quite like her, and this does seem like the type of film that critics shrug their shoulders at, but audiences and the Academy eat up. There is no way this is happening unless the film hits big, and can get into the Best Picture line-up, but if it does, she moves up.
8. Reese Witherspoon in How Do You Know – Romantic comedies rarely hit with the Academy, but when directed by James L. Brooks, you cannot write her off either. The fact that she has an Oscar at home means they will take her more seriously. If this becomes a sizable hit, she could sneak in.
9. Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right – Some – like myself – actually prefer Moore in this film to her more highly acclaimed co-star Bening, which could mean they split the vote and neither get in, or that they pull off that rare feat and both get in. A few need to stumble, true, but they do love Moore.
10. Anne Hathaway in Love and Other Drugs – Her nomination for Rachel Getting Married two years ago helps in that it means they will take her role in this romcom a little more seriously (it also helps that Edward Zwick is directing). But, the film needs to become a big hit, and potential Oscar player in other categories, for her to really have a shot.

Also in the Running: Helen Mirren in The Tempest takes on one of Shakespeare’s best roles that was written for a man – they love her, so don’t count her out, but Julie Taymor is a little weird for the Academy’s tastes. Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go got some great reviews, and is coming off her breakthrough Oscar nom last year, but I think the film maybe too chilly for the Academy. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine is a former nominee, who has done nothing but get better since, but I wonder if Blue Valentine is coming out too late. Hilary Swank in Conviction is an obvious Oscar favorite, but as we’ve seen more often than not, she needs a truly great role to stand out – and I’m hearing this isn’t it. Naomi Watts in Fair Game has been trying for a while to get back into the Oscar race, and this seems like an Oscar role, but after Cannes the buzz has died. Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong does seem like an Oscar role – drunken country music star making a comeback – but after Bridges last year, can she possibly compare? Gemma Arteron in Tamara Drewe is probably a little too modern, and little too critically divisive to get into the big race, but who knows? Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory seems like a standard issue Hollywood romcom, and Witherspoon and Hathaway have the advantage there – at least for now.

Best Supporting Actor
1. Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech
– They love Rush, whether he is being serious or silly – and when he has a big role in a best picture frontrunner, you have to assume he’ll be in the race at least. People have so far flipped for the role, so I doubt he’ll be overlooked.
2. Andrew Garfield in The Social Network – Could be the breakout nominee of the year with acclaimed performances here and in Never Let Me Go, the future Spider-Man should find himself in the running.
3. Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right – He has been circling a nomination for years now, but has never quite been able to breakthrough. He has a great role here in a Best Picture frontrunner, so I have a hard time believing they won’t finally give him a nod.
4. Christain Bale in The Fighter – The preview makes his role seem like the best in the movie, and they have probably been looking to nominate him for a while – they just needed the right role. Since no one has seen it, no one knows, but if the film hits, so does he.
5. Josh Brolin in True Grit – True Grit has any number of supporting male performances – but nothing beats a bad guy, which is who Josh Brolin is in the film, and what he excels at. If the film is as good as it seems, he’ll get in.
6. Jeremy Renner in The Town – The star of last year’s best picture winner returns in the flashiest of the roles in this hit film, that could find its way into the Best Picture line-up. If that happens, and someone above him stumbles, he could easily move higher.
7. John Malkovich in Secretariat – Malkovich is an acclaimed actor, and two time nominee – although the last one was 17 years ago. Nevertheless, he has the pedigree, and this looks like a fun role. If the film gets into the Picture line-up, he could easily move up.
8. Bill Murray in Get Low – I honestly think they have been looking to get Murray back into the line-up since he lost for Lost in Translation back in 2003 – and this is probably his best chance since. I don’t see how he gets in if Robert Duvall fails to get in for Actor, but if people falter, he’s there.
9. Jack Nicholson in How Do You Know – Nominated for more acting Oscars than anyone not named Meryl, Nicholson reteams with the same director responsible for two of his three Oscar wins, so it would be silly to count him out, wouldn’t it?
10. Sam Rockwell in Conviction – Much like Ruffalo and Bale above, Rockwell has kind of been circling his first nomination for a while now, so his work here – which is said to be the best in the film may finally land him in the race. Having said that, word on the film isn’t quite as good, and how many of these guys can they nominate in one year?

Also in the Running: Vincent Cassell in Black Swan got great reviews for his work in Black Swan, but I wonder if this category is too crowded. Justin Timberlake in The Social Network will have to fight singer bias, and his co-stars, if he is really going to be taken seriously here. John Hawkes in Winters Bone is a well known character actor doing great work, but needs Lawrence to lock in before having a shot. Dustin Hoffman in Barney’s Version is an acting legend, and the role seems right up his ally, but I still wonder when the film is going to come out. Bob Hoskins in Made in Dagenham needs the film to be in the running for his role here to move up the list. Matt Damon in True Grit has on paper what is the least of the major roles in True Grit – but he’s a star, and perhaps he can make something of it. Zach Galifankis in Due Date is probably not really in the running, but then again he got a few surprise nods for The Hangover last year, so maybe. And finally, I’d add the last minute addition of Ed Harris in The Way Back – he is an Oscar favorite who has never won, so if they are able to build a campaign, he could move WAY up.

Supporting Actress
1. Helena Bonham Carter in The Kings Speech
– The Academy loves their royalty, and playing Elizabeth II should get her the second nomination of her career. Nice to see her in something not directed by Tim Burton, but she may suffer unfavorable comparisons to Helen Mirren.
2. Dianne Wiest in Rabbit Hole – It truly is a great role for an older actress, and Dianne Wiest completely and totally nails every scene she is in. A two time winner, I doubt she’ll actually win, but I have a hard time thinking she won’t be nominated.
3. Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit – In actuality, this really should be a lead role, but since she’s new in a film full of stars, I think they’ll put her here. If she delivers the performance she should, she’ll get in no matter what category they put her in.
4. Miranda Richardson in Made in Dagenham – It seems odd to me to be predicting Richardson here, and not Hawkins or Hoskins, but that’s because this is a weak category this year. Certainly not a lock, but if they film moves, she will be.
5. Barbara Hershey in Black Swan – They do love Barbara Hershey, and Black Swan could be one of the major nominees this year. But her buzz seems to have faded a little since people have seen the film. Or perhaps they just can’t stop talking about Portman. Until I see it, I really don’t know.
6. Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom – Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my – and other bloggers – behalf, but Jacki Weaver’s mommie dearest performance in Animal Kingdom is clearly one of the best of the year, and in a weak category she could slide in – if they can convince enough people to watch the film that is.
7. Melissa Leo in The Fighter – The mother of the two sons at the heart of the story. She still ha residual goodwill from her work in Frozen River, so if the movie hits, she’ll move up.
8. Sissy Spacek in Get Low – If Get Low is able to gain some momentum, then her role could definitely benefit from a weak category, and the fact that the Academy loves her.
9. Elle Fanning in Somewhere – She got great reviews even from those who were lukewarm on the film itself. The Academy hasn’t warmed to the young women in Coppola’s films yet, but it could happen.
10. Kristen Scott Thomas in Nowhere Boy – She won a bunch of awards last year in England for this performance, she is a former nominee, and boomer nostalgia will help the Academy to at least watch this film. It could happen.

Also in the Running: Rosamund Pike in Barney’s Version could happen if the movie hits right, but I still worry about a release. Dale Dickey in Winters Bone is great in a very natural performance in the film, but is it really an Oscar role? Amy Adams in The Fighter is a previous nominee, and someone they love, but her role maybe too clich├ęd, and she has to fight her co-star. Anne Marie Duff in Nowhere Boy got nominated for the same awards Scott Thomas did for this film, but she isn’t as well known. Ruth Stein in Another Year could ride the film, and her co-stars, tails if the critics support her. Keira Knightley in Never Let Me Go is excellent in this role, but like the film itself perhaps too chilly. Marion Cottillard in Inception was great in a difficult role, but Inception really isn’t an actors film, is it? Mila Kunis in Black Swan could benefit from love of the film, but needs to get past her more seasoned co-star. Helen Mirren in The Debt is the best thing about the film, but I don’t think it will be enough.

I haven’t decided what next week’s Oscar update will be. Given the fact that the deadline for Foreign Language film submissions was this past weekend, we should have the official list of potential nominees, so that is most likely.

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