Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2013 Oscar Winner Predictions: Acting

Yesterday, I looked at the writing and directing categories and on Monday it was everything "below the line". Tomorrow, will be Best Picture. But today, it's all about the acting.

5. Christian Bale, American Hustle
For Him: They obviously really liked the performance, since he got in here with very little precursor support. They also love the film – it’s tied for the most nominations of any film, and he is the star of the show. It is a show off role as well.
Against Him: He’s the only nominee in the category who already has an Oscar, so there’s no need to reward again so soon (especially since it’s only his second nomination). Surprise nominees with little precursor support don’t usually win. It’s perhaps a little too much of a show off role.

4. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
For Him: He is old, meaning they may never get another chance to give him an Oscar. He is a previous nominee – from well over 30 years ago – and has been doing solid character work his entire career. He’s worked harder than anyone this season, and has a role in a film they obviously love. It’s a recipe that worked for Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine.
Against Him: That was supporting actor, this is lead. While Dern is immensely respected, I’m not sure he’s the type of actor they feel embarrassed that they haven’t given him an Oscar already. Much like the film itself – which will likely be shutout on Oscar night – the nomination seems like the reward here.

3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
For Him: He is the star of perhaps the Best Picture winner, and he anchors nearly every scene in the film with his quiet, human dignity – and yet still gets a few “Oscar” moments throughout the film. Has been doing solid work for more than a decade now, and the Academy is just noticing him now.
Against Him: For some, the role is too passive (I don’t agree, but it’s a complaint I’ve heard more than once). While he did good in the precursors – he lost the major ones – The Globe, the Broadcast Film Critics Award, the SAG to McConaughey in head-to-head showdowns. This feels like he’s going to be a runner up.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
For Him: This is DiCaprio’s fourth nomination, and he still hasn’t won yet – putting him close to that ground where he’s way overdue, so that will draw some votes. He has worked hard this season since the film broke late, and he is well liked in Hollywood. The Academy would love to put an end to the silly “They always overlook Leo” narrative some drag out every year. It’s a larger than life performance – the Academy doesn’t like subtle. The Globe win helps a lot.
Against Him: Some will refuse to vote for him because they hate the film so much – they think it’s “vile”. The film perhaps came out too late – much of the narrative was already set before they even saw his film. He’s still young enough that the Academy can say “Next time…” and check off someone else’s name.

1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
For Him: It wasn’t that long ago that McConaughey as an Oscar nominee would be considered laughable – but a string of stellar performances in smaller movies over the past few years have turned him from a laughingstock to a critical favorite. He’s won the BIG precursors in the Globe, the SAG and the Broadcast Film Critics award. He is immensely charming and well liked. Even though it’s his first nomination, some say he’s due.
Against Him: He didn’t have to compete against Leo in the SAG – because they hadn’t seen his film when they nominated – or the Globes – because of different categorization – so perhaps his impressive resume of wins isn’t quite so impressive. Is he really “due” more than DiCaprio is? In such a strong year, is the Academy really going to give two acting Oscars to one film – and isn’t Leto pretty much locked in supporting actor?

Who Will Win: Everything is pointing to Matthew McConaughey winning this prize, and I think everything fits for him. If The Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t such a divisive film, I think you’d be looking more seriously at DiCaprio, but it is, so the writing is on the wall.
Who Should Win:
To me, his larger than life performance is one of the best of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career, and he deserves to win for his balls to the wall greatness.
Least of the Nominees: In such a strong year, I really don’t see how Christian Bale cracked the top five over the likes of Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Joaquin Phoenix and Oscar Isaac.

5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
For Her: She’s Meryl freaking Streep! 18 nominations, 3 wins and she chews the scenery wonderfully in August: Osage County – one of the most rewarded female stage roles in years. They love her.
Against Her: She has three wins already – and the third one was recently. If she keeps getting nominated, a fourth win is not out of the question – but they’ll make her wait a while. Some HATE the movie and the performance.

4. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
For Her: She is the probably the biggest movie star in the world right now, and she received far and away the best reviews of her career for Gravity. It’s a tricky role, as she spends so much time by herself in the film, and she nailed it. Gravity could be coming down the pipe as an unlikely Best Picture champ.
Against Her: Few recent wins are more derided than Bullock’s win for The Blind Side back in 2009. She may well have won over the haters with this performance – but even they may think one Oscar for Bullock is enough for now.

3. Judi Dench, Philomena
For Her: She fits in with the Academy’s older demographic, who obviously loved the film as they pushed it into the Best Picture race as well. She’s on her 7th nomination, and although she’s won before, it was for supporting actress – 15 years ago. If she keeps getting nominated, a second win is not out of the question.
Against Her: She just doesn’t have the buzz this year – and unless you’re old, you’re not voting for this performance. She doesn’t seem to care if she wins or loses – she barely campaigns anymore (which I love, but others, not so much).

2. Amy Adams, American Hustle
For Her: She is the only actress nominated this year who has not already won an Oscar – and they like to spread the wealth. Given the fact that she’s on her fifth nomination, there will be many who feel she is overdue for an Oscar. They love her movie, which may well not win an acting Oscar anywhere – a rarity for a film nominated in all four acting categories.
Against Her: The reviews for her were mixed – even by some who loved the film. Yes, she has five nominations – but did she even come close to winning on the other four? Given her competition, is this really the best lead actress performance of the year?

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
For Her: She has won practically everything she could win at this point – from most the critics’ awards, to the Globe to SAG and everything else. The Academy loves women in Woody Allen movies – 5 of whom have won Oscars already. Yes, she’s won before – but that was 9 years ago in the Supporting category. Many will say she is due for a second win.
Against Her: That first win means there is the smallest crack that Adams can exploit – plus as much as they obviously liked the film, they did not nominate it for Best Picture – even with more than five slots available. Of those 5 previous women who won for Woody Allen films – only one was in the leading category – Diane Keaton for Annie Hall all the back in 1977. The ongoing Woody Allen scandal could convince some voters to go with someone else.

Who Will Win: This has pretty much been locked down by Cate Blanchett since the summer, so unless the Academy is bored of hearing about her (or decides to punish her for working with Woody Allen amidst the current scandal) and decide to go with Adams, Blanchett walks away with this one handily.
Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett
really is head and shoulders above the other nominees – and the only one I had in my personal top 5, so it’s an easy choice.
Least of the Nominees: I think Amy Adams makes the most of a role that is at times horribly underwritten in American Hustle. I loved her in the film – but still cannot help but think she’s the weakest of the five.

Supporting Actor
5. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
For Him: It is not a huge knock in the supporting categories to be a complete unknown. They obviously like the film – nominating it for best picture – and Abdi is great in a role that pits him against Tom Hanks – who he outdoes, as evidenced by the fact they nominated him and not Hanks.
Against Him: The lack of a nomination for Hanks – and Greengrass for director – signal weaker than expected support for the film. The nomination will help his career a lot – and that’s all he’s going to get.

4. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
For Him: They obviously loved Hill – since he got in with very little precursor support. He’s on his second nomination in 4 years, so he’s they like him as an actor as well. His larger than life performance is one that sticks out in your mind after the movie is over.
Against Him: His character is thoroughly repellent, and Hill doesn’t have the best reputation in the world. Some HATE the film so much they won’t vote for him no matter how good he is. At this rate, Hill will win an Oscar – I just don’t think this is his year.

3. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
For Him: Back-to-back nominations for David O. Russell films, so they obviously love him and his work. He didn’t get a ton of precursor support, but it was enough to get him in. Last year, he had no chance to beat Day-Lewis for actor, but was probably the runner-up. A make-up award for last year perhaps?
Against Him: He just hasn’t really been able to make the case for himself this year to this point – and if it hasn’t happened by now, it probably won’t. Like Hill, he’s on track for a win sometime soon – just not this year.

2. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
For Him: One of the most acclaimed actors working right now, it too the Academy a long time to finally give him a nomination. That sort of thing can work in your favor (like Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote). It is a large, memorable villain role – and they love villains in this category.
Against Him: Also like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I feel he’s on the verge of becoming an Academy favorite – the first nom is the hardest to get – so they’ll think they have other chances to award him. He hasn’t work for it this year, and they like when you show you want it. He needed a big win somewhere – and it never came.

1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
For Him: He has been a force all season – winning multiple critics prizes to go along with the SAG and Golden Globe. They like it when you show off a little in your role – and this role in the definition of showing off. This has felt inevitable for a while now.
Against Him: He doesn’t quite have the resume of Fassbender, Cooper or Hill. Some in the gay community have been largely critical of the movie, and in particular Leto’s performance. I don’t think it’s stuck yet, but I could be wrong

Who Will Win: Unless the backlash catches up to him, I think Jared Leto is a very safe bet. If it does, all bets are off, and this could go anywhere.
Who Should Win:
To me, Michael Fassbender delivered the best performance of the bunch – by far – taking a standard issue villain role, and making it far more complex than anticipated. He’s also one of the best in the biz, and deserves an Oscar by now.
Least of the Nominees: At the risk of sounding like an American Hustle basher, I’ll say Bradley Cooper – who I quite enjoyed in the film, even if I think he was out acted in most of his scenes, either by Adams or Louis C.K.

Supporting Actress
5. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
For Her: A beloved Hollywood star, who hasn’t been in contention for a long time now (not since she won for Erin Brockovich back in 2000), Roberts got solid reviews even when the film itself was all over the map. The performance is backbone of the film.
Against Her: And that is why it’s a lead role. Most in the Academy don’t seem to care about category fraud, but some do, and Roberts in the biggest example in many a year. Some HATE the film, and won’t vote for her because of that. She already has an Oscar at home, and I don’t think the appetite is there for a second quite yet.

4. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
For Her: She seemed like a shoo-in for a nomination a few years ago for her highly praised work in Happy-Go-Lucky, and then was cruelly not nominated. If this makeup nomination isn’t enough, perhaps she can be pushed further up? She delivered an excellent performance in the film that kept it from being the Cate Blanchett show.
Against Her: Her co-star is almost a shoo-in to win, and rarely do they give two acting prizes to a film not nominated for Best Picture. A makeup nomination for Happy-Go-Lucky likely seems like enough award for her this year. The nomination was somewhat of a surprise, and those rarely actually win the award in the end.

3. June Squibb, Nebraska
For Her: She’s 84 years old – if they’re going to give her an Oscar it pretty much has to be now. She has been a long time character actress, with a wealth of stage experience, and she steals many of her scenes in Nebraska. A feel good narrative for all those hard working actors out there who don’t get their big break until late in life.
Against Her: Those hard working actors aren’t really in the Academy, are they? Like the films chances in every category, it’s probably everyone’s second or third choice, meaning she doesn’t have the votes to win. They like younger actresses in this category, and this year there are two doozies.

2. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
For Her: The hottest actress in Hollywood right now, she won last year for lead, and then followed it up with an even loopier performance for the same director this year. Even those, like me, who are not entirely sold on American Hustle, loved her in it. Seriously, does anyone not love Jennifer Lawrence?
Against Her: Had she lost last year, this would probably be a shoo-in – but she didn’t. There are no other actresses in history who have won twice by the age of 23. The Academy will see it as too much, too soon, and look elsewhere.

1. Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
For Her: She came out of nowhere to deliver one of the most devastating performances of the year – a heartbreaking performance that shows physical endurance, and moments of tender innocence. She became a red carpet star at the Globes, even if she lost there, and since picked up the BFCA and SAG award. The Academy loves the movie, and will want to award at least one of the actors in it.
Against Her: She is a complete unknown competing against the hottest celebrity in Hollywood right now. They know Lawrence is no fluke – they don’t know that yet about Nyong’o.

Who Will Win: Unless the Academy really, truly loves Jennifer Lawrence, than Lupita Nyong’o wins this one.
Who Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o
is brilliant – and for me it deserves the award easily.
Least of the Nominees: I really like Julia Roberts in August: Osage County – a surprising amount in fact. But it’s a lead performance, so on principle, she gets my vote.

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