Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oscar Winner Predictions: Acting

The third post is on the four acting categories - three of which are pretty much gimmes, but Best Actor is a tough one.
Best Actor
5. Steve Carrel in Foxcatcher
For Him: They love it when beloved, big comedy stars go serious in the movie – and I have trouble thinking of any comedian who went so damn serious as Carrel did here. They also love physical transformation, which Carrel also does here as well.
Against Him: After being touted all year as a frontrunner, he faded a little down the stretch, so much so that it was touch and go for him even getting a nomination. He’s the only nominee for in a Best Picture nominee. For him, the nomination is the reward.

4. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
For Him: He has a huge following, he got praise for the movie all season long, and he’s in a film that will be pushing very hard to win the Best Picture prize – and could surprise there. You know Harvey is pushing this hard.
Against Him: He hasn’t gotten the precursor support he really needs to pull off a victory. This really is breakthrough as a movie star – he may well win at some point, but I doubt it will be this year.

3. Bradley Cooper in American Sniper
For Him: This is his third nomination in three years, so many will think he’s overdue. Even those who don’t love the film have basically had nothing but praise for Cooper’s subtle performance in the film. The film has become a huge hit – and his win would be popular with the audience. The passionate support for American Sniper started late – too late to him in some of the precursors, so this could surprise.
Against Him: The film has become a right wing hit – and even if I don’t think it’s quite the film they think it is – that may not sit well with the more liberal Academy. His nomination was somewhat a surprise, so he’s fighting an uphill battle. He is almost assured to win at some point – but I’m not sure it’s this year.

2. Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
For Him: He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a drama. More importantly, he upset Keaton at the SAG Awards, which is usually a good indicator. The Academy does love it when actors play hugely famous icons – and love it even more when actors play someone with disabilities. Even those who don’t much like the film, think he was excellent in it.
Against Him: The youngest nominee, many will see the nomination as the award – and look to give him the actual win a little bit down the line. I just don’t think the film is well loved enough for him to take it.

1. Michael Keaton in Birdman
For Him: He is a much loved actor – who has done solid work for decades – who has finally been given the role of his life, and grabbed hold with everything he had. The film requires him to do a hell of a lot of acting, with wild swings sometimes in the same scene, and he nails it. He has the precursor support he needs.
Against Him: While he may be beloved, but he has never been nominated before, so it’s hard to say he’s massively overdue a win. It is a comedy – and they don’t much give Oscars for that. 

Who Will Win: Michael Keaton for Birdman. Again, the smart money is probably elsewhere – namely Redmayne who won the SAG and BAFTA. Still I cannot help but think Keaton is pulling this one out.

Who Should Win: Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. It’s a tough call between him and Carrel – but what gets Cooper my vote is the fact that of the five nominees, he has the least showy role – and did the most subtle acting. This type of thing usually doesn’t even get nominated, so I’ll pick him.
Least of the Nominees: Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game.
This really is a one note performance – which Cumberbatch delivers ably, but nothing too inspired.

Who Should Have Been Here: Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Really, they nominated this film for practically everything, and couldn’t find room for Fiennes? Ridiculous.

Best Actress
5. Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
For Her: She got into the final five with very little campaigning, for a foreign language film no less. She has won before, but that was a while ago, and she has come close a few times since without getting a nomination. 
Against Her: The fact that she got in with barely a campaign speaks more to the weakness of the competition. She is brilliant – but winning for a foreign film is never easy, and she probably cannot drum up the support.

4. Reese Witherspoon in Wild
For Her: A comeback role of sorts – and the Oscars love a comeback – the role is Witherspoon as we’ve never seen her before, as she reinvents herself onscreen as the film goes along. She is a huge movie star, who took a chance, and pulled it off.
Against Her: She may have been able to challenge had the film become more popular with the Academy, or if she didn’t already have an Oscar at home – but those aren’t true, so she cannot win.

3. Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
For Her: The film really is her story – and Jones carries the film, without the disability that her co-star Redmayne, has to lean on. A well respected young actress, who is also the only nominee for a Best Picture contender.
Against Her: She is probably too young – and doesn’t have the precursor support to really, seriously challenge. She hasn’t been nominated before, so the nomination is the reward.

2. Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
For Her: Was there a more talked about female character – or performance – this year than Rosamund Pike’s Amazing Amy? Didn’t think so. It is a brilliant performance, a breakthrough role for an actress who has been doing solid work for a decade now. Undeniably the most popular role in the category.
Against Her: For some reason, the Academy didn’t embrace Gone Girl – this is the film’s only nomination, so I cannot imagine her really pulling this off.

1. Julianne Moore in Still Alice
For Her: People have not been high on the movie, but no one has not praised Moore’s great work as a young with early, onset Alzheimer’s. This is Moore’s fifth nomination stretching back to 1997 – and she has not won yet, making her perhaps the more overdue for a win than any other actor or actress working right now.
Against Her: The movie isn’t as loved as her performance – and has barely been seen by audiences.

Who Will Win: Julianne Moore for Still Alice. She should win this in a cakewalk – no serious threat has emerged to her, even if audiences haven’t had much of a chance to see it.

Who Should Win: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl. It truly is an iconic performance, and some day people will wonder why she wasn’t a more serious threat.
Least of the Nominees: Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything. For all the talk of how weak a category this was, all five nominees are actually quite strong – but Jones a little less than the other four.

Who Should Have Been Here: Anne Dorval for Mommy. If the Academy was going to embrace a foreign performance, I wish it would have been the great Anne Dorval for her amazing, operatic performance in Xavier Dolan’s Mommy.

Best Supporting Actor
5. Robert Duvall in The Judge
For Him: He is a much loved veteran – so loved that he survived the critical beating the film took to land himself his 7th Oscar nomination. While he has won before, it has only been once, and that was more than three decades ago. When you get up to this point, some will think he should have his second.
Against Him: Does anyone really like the film? The fact that Duvall got in at all speaks more to the weakness of the crop of potential nominees this year than passion for Duvall himself. At this point, the nomination is the award.

4. Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
For Him: This is his second nomination, and he is a critical favorite who could well have scored a couple of other nominations over the years – meaning some will think he’s due. After Foxcatcher struggled through much of the award season, it came on strong with the Academy – meaning they like it more than others.
Against Him: I just don’t see the film as having enough support to push him in. It is a quiet film, a subtle film, a dark film – and it is a subtle performance – and subtle doesn’t often win acting Oscars. He’s on the list for “next time”.

3. Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
For Him: This is Hawke’s second acting nomination – and his fourth overall (counting two screenplay nods he shared with Boyhood director Linklater and Julie Delphy for the Before movies). He has been a fine actor for well over two decades now, and his performance in Boyhood is quietly impressive and natural.
Against Him: Like Ruffalo, his performance may be too subtle to get many votes. He doesn’t have the big moments his co-star Arquette has, which is going to push her into the winner’s circle. He is probably overdue for an Oscar – but like Ruffalo, he’s on the list for next time.

2. Edward Norton in Birdman
For Him: Birdman has come on strong in Phase II – it is arguably the frontrunner now – and Norton has received some of the best reviews of his career here. He also gets bonus points for playing an egotistical, asshole, method actor – which is precisely how many see him. It is a great performance in a film they love.
Against Him: The problem is, many still do see him as an asshole. While he has three nominations in his career – the last one came 16 years ago, and many just plain don’t like him. If he was going to take this prize, you would have to assume he would have stolen a precursor – which he hasn’t done.

1. J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
For Him: Simmons probably became the frontrunner for this prize a year ago – when the film debuted to rapturous reviews at Sundance. Since then, he has fought off all comers, pretty much winning every award he could. They obviously loved the film – it did get into the Best Picture field – and the response to his work has been ecstatic. He is the type of well-loved character actor finally given the role of the lifetime, that they will reward in the supporting category.
Against Him: He is clearly the least famous of the four nominees – and the only one who has never been nominated before. Will they give an Oscar to someone who is working as an insurance pitchman at the same time he’s campaigning for an Oscar? (yes, they will).

Who Will Win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash. Earlier in the season, many thought that this could be a fight down to the wire between Simmons and Norton – but Norton has yet to breakthrough and steal any major prize from Simmons. He wins this one in a walk.

Who Should Win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash. It is clearly the best, most memorable, most terrifying performance nominated here – and for those of us who have loved him since his days on Oz, it is gratifying to see him knock a role like this out of the park.
Least of the Nominees: Robert Duvall for The Judge. It may well be the best thing in the movie – but it’s still an average performance in a forgettable movie. No one will remember this one.

Who Should Have Been Here: Josh Brolin for Inherent Vice. I understand why the Academy didn’t respond to one of my absolute favorite films of the year – it is very complex and dense – but I don’t get how they didn’t fall for Josh Brolin’s brilliant, over-the-top at first, then growing deeper, performance. This should have been an easy get in a weak field – and for some reason it wasn’t.

Best Supporting Actress
5. Laura Dern in Wild
For Her: She is a well-respected actress, a previous nominee (for 1991’s Rambling Rose), who has done solid work for nearly 30 years now. She’s at an age where unfortunately all Hollywood thinks she can play is mothers (which she did here) – but she finally got a good role, and a second nomination.
Against Her: She isn’t the type of actress who people think are overdue for a win. Wild wasn’t a big hit with the Academy this year, and her nomination was somewhat a surprise. It isn’t her year.

4. Meryl Streep in Into the Woods
For Her: She’s Meryl Streep – and although she has three Oscars already, never doubt how much they love her. The movie isn’t well loved, but people really loved her in the showcase role.
Against Her: But she does have three Oscars already – the third fairly recently – and there is no rush to give her a fourth any time soon. No one really loves this movie.

3. Emma Stone in Birdman
For Her: She is a big, young star – the type that they often go with in this category. Add in the fact that she’s in the arguable frontrunner, got career best reviews, and does have some of the most memorable moments in the film – including the final shot – and she just may pull off an upset.
Against Her: But if she was going to pull off an upset, there would have been some sign of that to this point – and there hasn’t been. She’s been nominated for everything, and won nothing for this performance.

2. Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game
For Her: A well respected, beautiful young actress – a former nominee (for Pride & Prejudice), who has come close to a couple other nominations – there will be some who think it is her time. She has a (slightly) more complex role than the typical supportive female in these movies. If the Academy really likes The Imitation Game, this is perhaps their only chance to give it a major prize.
Against Her: Where is the evidence that they truly love the film enough to want to do that? She has been a player all year, but came up short in all the major precursors to Arquette. She’s entered the realm of “next year” winners – and this isn’t her year.

1. Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
For Her: She has won pretty much all the major precursors she can for the role. She has been the frontrunner since the summer, and nothing has seriously challenged that status so far. She is a respected actress – although she has never been nominated before, people like her. It’s a rather brave performance – and she has the big moments her co-stars don’t that gets her the win.
Against Her: Their isn’t much really – she has won everything, she is well respected, she’s in the frontrunner. She has been genuine and humble during the campaign. This is probably the safest bet in this year’s race.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Arquette wins this one in a walk – no one really made a case for themselves this year.

Who Should Win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. It is a very subtle performance throughout – that has a few bigger moments. It was a weak year in this category – and no one really came close.
Least of the Nominees: Meryl Streep for Into the Woods. I love Streep – and she is campy good fun in the movie. But really, did she need a 19th nomination for this?

Who Should Have Been Here: Rene Russo for Nightcrawler. This was a genuine comeback performance for a woman who was a star in the 1990s, and pretty much forgotten since. It is a great performance – and dark one – and easily should have found her way into this category.

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