Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Early Fall Predictions: Best Actor

Now that we are actually in Oscar Movie Season (the leaves are changing and adult dramas are back in the theaters again - rejoice!), I thought it would be a good time to reevaluate my predictions. That sidebar with my year in advance predictions was starting to look a little dated. (Sorry, Chadwick Boseman. I thought you were great in Get On Up - probably the best part of the entire movie - but a Best Actor nomination just is not going to happen.) And now that we've had the main film festivals (Toronto, Telluride, Venice, and New York) it seems that most of the major players have been viewed, with the top men fighting their way to the 5 spots in Best Actor.

It appears that two actors that are almost guaranteed nominations are a couple of Brits in a couple of baity biopics. Eddie Redmayne, who is already a Tony award winner and gained a little awards traction (or at least talk) a couple years ago when he played Marius in the Oscar-winning Les Misérables, seems to have taken the early frontrunner status for his transformative work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Playing the real-life physicist allows him to not only tackle the mimicry of a well-known figure but he also physically challenges himself as he shows the progression Hawking's body underwent as his disease left him almost entirely paralyzed. It's the sort of performance that Oscar will find hard to ignore and could bring a possible win.

Taking on another important British figure, although one not as well known, the internet's favorite actor (that bears a striking resemblance to a certain aquatic creature), Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius that successfully cracked the Enigma code, a huge step in the Allies winning WWII. But if that wasn't baity enough, Turing was later put to trial for his homosexuality, persecuted by the country that once celebrated him as a savior. Cumberbatch has been the next big thing for awhile. Although things didn't pan out for a nomination last year for the virtually forgotten The Fifth Estate, that there was talk at all for him just shows that people are eager to see him nominated. (His recent Emmy win for the beloved Sherlock certainly helps as well.) And with strong reviews for his performance, it seems he'll be making his way to a first nomination.

Another strong possibility is something of a comeback story. Michael Keaton, whose recent career hasn't exactly been as strong as it was back in his heyday of the late 80's and early 90's (Sorry, I never saw Need for Speed or the Robocop remake), seems to have found a role that could bring the veteran his first nomination. Starring in Oscar-nominated writer/director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's first foray into comedy (but it's a dark comedy), Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor once known for playing a superhero now trying to mount a career-comeback on Broadway. Much has already been said about the parallels between the character and the former Batman's story (in fact, that's been most of what the early press has been about). But word is Keaton hits it out of the park with a nomination almost sure to follow.

Steve Carell may be best known as a comedian, but it seems that his against-type performance in Foxcatcher, in which the star wore a prosthetic nose (well, it worked for Nicole Kidman) and plays the real-life millionaire and murderer John du Pont, might just find his way to an Oscar nomination. That is if he doesn't lose his spot to his costar Channing Tatum said to give the performance of his career in the film. Both have had strong praise and buzz since the film debuted at Cannes back in May, but for now I'm giving the edge to Carell to secure a spot on the list. Both actors are stepping outside their comfort zone, but seeing funny man Carell play a chilling killer seems like the sort of game-changing performance the Academy would recognize.

For my fifth choice, I'm gonna go out on limb here with a film that has yet to be screened at festivals, with a relative unknown actor that's a little younger than Oscar is used to honoring. But after seeing Jack O'Connell in Starred Up this year, he has definitely emerged as a charismatic and talented actor, that seems capable of great things. With his performance in the Angelina Jolie-helmed Unbroken, playing an actual person (Louis Zamperini), who was a Olympian, WWII soldier, survived not only a plane crash but a raft stranded at sea for 47 days and a Japanese POW camp, I just have a hunch that it's a performance that will be too big to ignore. And the other names being tossed around right now (Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice is too weird, Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner seems too stuffy, Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel seems so long ago, and Ben Affleck in Gone Girl is just...no), they don't stand out the way O'Connell does. I think we're looking at an interesting year with some surprises and right now it's looking like a Best Actor category made up entirely of first time nominees.

My Predictions
Steve Carell Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton Birdman
Jack O'Connell Unbroken
Eddie Redmayne The Theory of Everything

My Favorite Best Actor Performances (of what I've seen so far this year)
Ralph Fiennes Grand Budapest Hotel
John Lithgow Love Is Strange
Alfred Molina Love Is Strange
Jack O'Connell Starred Up
Miles Teller Whiplash


  1. I feel like an idiot for dropping O'Connell for the first time this year in my predictions this month. I'm just waiting for Unbroken to come in and win everything.

    1. and I believe you went with...Ben Affleck. Which I can just not support.

      but I'm really pulling for O'Connell, if it doesn't happen this year, hopefully soon cause he's got "it"...