Sunday, January 25, 2015

Twice a Best Actress: Vivien Leigh

When we did the Twice A Best Actor roundtable this past summer, with wonderful performances from Marlon Brando and Daniel Day Lewis in the running, there was uncertainty whose double wins would come out on top. But for Twice a Best Actress, there was never any doubt in my mind that Vivien Leigh's two iconic wins for Gone With the Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) would be victorious. Not only are they considered two of the best wins in that category, but both rank as two of cinema's greatest performances. Leigh won both times she was nominated for the Academy Award (despite a turn in 1940's Waterloo Bridge that should have garnered a nomination), but her filmography is limited. She appeared in only 19 films in her career, more than half of them British films that were made before Gone With the Wind made her a star. And she devoted most of her career to appearing on stage alongside her frequent co-star, husband Laurence Olivier. She appeared in everything from Shakespearean tragedies to Noël Coward comedies and even won a Tony award for Best Actress in a Musical for 1963's Tovarich. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, her health was a large part of why she appeared so infrequently in film. In 1953, while filming Elephant Walk in Ceylon, she suffered a severe breakdown and had to be replaced with Elizabeth Taylor. And she tragically dead in 1967 at the age of 53 due to tubcreiolous. But her performances as Scarlett and Blanche are more than enough to sustain a lasting legacy and her place as one Hollywood's most beautiful and talented actresses (and one of my personal all-time favorites) is assured.

Vivien Leigh

Best Actress 1939

Bette Davis Dark Victory
Irene Dunne Love Affair
Greta Garbo Ninotchka
Greer Garson Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Vivien Leigh Gone With the Wind*

My Thoughts on Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind: "Leigh challenges the viewer not to side with what is essentially a selfish manipulator, by making her interesting, complex, and, frankly, damn alluring...." (Click here to read the complete write-up) A

Best Actress 1951

Katharine Hepburn The African Queen
Vivien Leigh A Streetcar Named Desire*
Eleanor Parker Detective Story
Shelley Winters A Place in the Sun
Jane Wyman The Blue Veil

My Thoughts on Leigh as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire: "Leigh pushes herself so completely in the film, burying herself deeply into Blanche's psyche to a point where sometimes it's hard to know where Leigh ends and Blanche begins..." (Click here for the complete write-up) A

*My Choices for Best Actress. It couldn't be anyone other than Vivien Leigh both years.

Twice a Best Actress: Glenda Jackson

The Academy's love affair with British actress Glenda Jackson was intense, but like all great flings was brief. From a six year period of 1970-1975, Jackson was nominated for Best Actress 4 times, winning half of the time. (The two wins came for her work in 1970's Women in Love and 73's A Touch of Class with the other two nominations were for 71's Sunday Bloody Sunday and 75's Hedda.) And it wasn't just the Academy that was enamored. During that same time period she appeared in a 1971 BBC 6-part series as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth R and won two out of the three Emmy awards she was nominated for that year, winning for Best Actress in a Drama Series and Best Actress in a TV Movie. (She received double nominations in the TV Movie category as each episode was considered separately.) Jackson expressed her distaste of awards for the arts, disliking how actresses are pitted against one another. After over two decades on stage and in film, she retired from acting in the early 90s to take up a completely different profession - politics. She has been a Member of Parliament since 1992 and from 97-99, during Tony Blair's time as Prime Minister, served as the Junior Transit Minister. In 2011, Jackson announced that she would not seek reelection at the next general election, citing her age  (she turns 80 in 2016) as the reasoning. Jackson has had a remarkable life, excelling in two careers that are difficult to break into, and over at Fisti's A Fistful of Films, we looked at her two Oscar winning roles for our Twice a Best Actress series. Both wins are unique choices for the Academy and each role couldn't be more different from the other. But all these years later, it's a little hard to see what the Academy saw in these performances. But people do crazy things when they're in love...

Glenda Jackson

Best Actress 1970

Jane Alexander The Great White Hope
Glenda Jackson Women in Love
Ali MacGraw Love Story
Sarah Miles Ryan's Daughter
Carrie Snodgress Diary of a Mad Housewife

My Thoughts on Jackson as Gudrun Brangwen in Women in Love: "Her part is very enigmatic and Jackson with her honeyed voice and a mysterious twinkle in her eye, effortlessly conveys a rich inner life for her character, making her engaging as she can. But it's hard to place if any of it actually amounts to anything..." (Click here for the complete write-up) C

Best Actress 1973

Ellen Burstyn The Exorcist
Glenda Jackson A Touch of Class
Marsha Mason Cinderella Liberty
Barbra Streisand The Way We Were*
Joanne Woodward Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

My Thoughts on Jackson as Vicki Allessio in A Touch of Class: "Jackson's hand at comedy is a little too forceful, oddly choosing anger and aggression as her main delivery and her character starts to feel a bit like a nag..." (Click here for the complete write-up) D

* My Choice for Best Actress. I haven't chosen anything for 1970 because I've only seen Jackson and MacGraw and I don't see either as Oscar-winning performances

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Final Supporting Predictions and a Plea for Pine and Swinton

It seems that both the supporting categories have been wrapped up with a frontrunner. In each, they are both so far ahead that the other actors that join them for nominations tomorrow morning will just be there as placeholders. And after both of them won the Golden Globe this past weekend (and every critics award there is), the inevitable march to Oscar victory for J.K. Simmons as a short-fused jazz instructor in Whiplash and Patricia Arquette as a single mother of two in Boyhood is all but assured. It helps that both are well respected among their peers, both have been acting for decades, and more importantly, both star in films that everyone seems to love (or at least greatly admire) that have had the luxury of having the time to actually being seen. Boyhood was the talk of the summer with it's once-in-a-lifetime, 12-year shoot and it only built momentum as the Oscar season officially kicked off. And Whiplash has had almost the entire year to build, having premiered at Sundance in January and played at numerous film festivals before opening in October to ecstatic audiences.

The other four men that will be joining Simmons in the Best Supporting Actor category are almost as assured nominations as Simmons is his eventual win. Already having joined him at the Golden Globes and SAG, they are: Edward Norton as a trouble-making, narcissistic actor (type-casting...) in Birdman, Mark Ruffalo as the only sane person in Foxcatcher (he really does seem to be getting nominated over his co-stars for the simple fact that he's the voice of reason in an irritating film), Ethan Hawke as the father in Boyhood (most of the early Oscar buzz was on Arquette as she has a more substantial role and great dramatic speeches, but as time went on, it seemed people took notice of Hawke's work as well), and a default nomination for Robert Duvall in the critically-panned The Judge, an inevitability that no one seems happy about. 

There are always surprises on nomination morning and this is the biggest category that could use some shaking up. But it seems that no one has built enough support to overtake Duvall. There are rumblings of Tom Wilkinson as LBJ in Selma, but the negative campaigning has relied solely on his characters inaccuracies and I fear he will suffer. Tyler Perry in Gone Girl, Miyavi in Unbroken, and Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler all briefly seemed in the running at some point, but haven't really been mentioned since. For me, the one performance that should take the fifth spot is not only the best performance in a talented ensemble, but one of the year's most surprising, playful, and, well, charming... 

FYC: Chris Pine in Into the Woods as Best Supporting Actor

In a story populated by a diva-transforming witch, a klutzy Cinderella, and a sarcastic Little Red Riding Hood, the role of Cinderella's Prince on stage has never really been a stand-out. True, he has the comical "Agony" along with its reprise, but the character can't compete with the more fully-formed female characters. So in a film version that stars one of the greatest actresses in the world taking on the witchy role and an Oscar nominated new star of movie musicals taking on everyone's favorite ball-going, slipper-forgetter, it seemed that the women would once again dominate the story. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that Pine, whose previous work in a Sci-Fi franchise and mostly forgettable romcoms and action films hadn't really prepared us for his remarkable ease wih comedy, emerges as the film's best performance. In this transfer to the big screen, a lot of the humor of the stage show hasn't been maintained. (Lines that are normally guaranteed laughs seem to fall with a thud.) Luckily Pine's pompous princely airhead is the film's shining source of playfulness and the actor has a ball playing the chauvinist womanizer. The Prince might not be the heart of the story or really all that deep, but Pine's cartoonish take on the role is a welcome delight...(Click here to read more about Pine and Into the Woods from my "Meet the Contenders" series at The Film Experience)

Final Best Supporting Actor Predictions
Robert Duvall The Judge
Ethan Hawke Boyhood
Edward Norton Birdman
Mark Ruffalo Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons Whiplash

My Favorite Best Supporting Actor Performances
Ben Mendelsohn Starred Up
Alfred Molina Love is Strange
Bill Nighy Pride
Edward Norton Birdman
Chris Pine Into the Woods

* * *

Already while composing this post, I have changed my final predictions in Supporting Actress twice. So needless to say, this category is still very much up for grabs. The two actresses almost guaranteed to join Arquette are both from films that are sure to score Best Picture nominations, Emma Stone as the daughter of Michael Keaton's Riggan in Birdman and Keira Knightley in pretty much the supportive wife role in The Imitation Game, even if it's only really a supportive beard role. (I've predicted Knightley in previous years for her work in Anna Karenina and A Dangerous Method, but neither amounted to anything. I'm pleased that she'll get another nomination, but her role is thankless here and she was much better in her other two films this year, Laggies and Begin Again.)

The other two spots will most likely go with some combination of three women: Jessica Chastain as a gangster's daughter turned revengeful housewife in A Most Violent Year, Oscar perennial Meryl Streep as a singing witch in Into the Woods, and the surprise BAFTA nominee (and excellent) Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. I would personally love to see Russo make the final five, but I find it hard to believe the Academy will choose her over two of their favorite actresses. At this point it seems silly to ever bet against Streep even if her work hardly stands against some of her best in Woods. And Chastain has already received two previous nominations in the past and had another productive year with roles in four very different movies. A nomination would surely be to honor her body of work this year (just like her breakout year in 2011). So I've ultimately gone safe with predicting Streep and Chastain scoring their 19th and 3rd nominations, respectively.

However, if the Academy is looking for an out-there choice for Best Supporting Actress this year, that is anything but safe, there was no more wonderfully bonkers, go-for-broke performance quite like Tilda Swinton as Minister Mason, the dictator of a dystopian train filled with earth's remaining humanity in Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer.

FYC: Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer as Best Supporting Actress

It's a common joke that Tilda Swinton is actually an alien living among us (something that the actress actually loves to play up), since her presence and talent seem otherworldly. So it's a little disappointing that the only time she has been recognized by the Academy was in this category for 2007's Michael Clayton, playing a very normal, if only a little cunning, corporate lawyer in a very adult drama. After all, this was an actress that has slept in a glass box in museums all over the world, started her acting career as the muse to avant garde artist/director Derek Jarman, and first came to prominence for playing a character that effortlessly shifted between genders and time periods. Luckily, the actress showed up to accept the award wearing what amounted to a fancy, designer garbage bag with her decades-younger lover on her arm, proving that not even an institution like the Academy can alter an off-kilter original like Swinton.

So it was a giddy delight to watch Swinton fully embracing her inner eccentric with one of the most bizarre characters in her filmography (or in recent cinematic memory) in this summer's Snowpiercer In a role originally written for a man, Swinton is virtually unrecognizable with gnarled teeth jutting out and coke bottle glasses engulfing her face. In creating the look and feel of the character, at one point she was asked to tone it down by directer Joon-ho when she asked if she could have a pig nose for Mason. Described by Swinton as a combination of Margaret Thatcher, Colonel Gaddafi, and Hitler, everything about her work in the film is so different and absurd that it threatens to derail the entire picture at times. But through her crazy commitment, it miraculously never does, bringing a stylized jolt of energy and uniqueness that could not have been created by anyone else - human or alien.

Final Best Supporting Actress Predictions
Patricia Arquette Boyhood
Jessica Chastain A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley The Imitation Game
Emma Stone Birdman
Meryl Streep Into the Woods

My Favorite Best Supporting Actress Performances
Minnie Driver Beyond the Lights
Rene Russo Nightcrawler
Tilda Swinton Snowpiercer
Uma Thurman Nymphomaniac 
Marisa Tomei Love is Strange

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Final Best Actress Predictions and a Plea for Cotillard

At the Golden Globes on Sunday, the amazing and Oscar-less Julianne Moore picked up what is sure to be one of many awards on her way to the big prize on Feb 22 for her performance as a professor with early onset Alzheimer's disease in Still Alice. I know a lot of us that worship at the alter of Julie have been eagerly awaiting the day when the actress can call herself an Oscar winner and it's looking more and more likely that this is actually the time. And while I think she does solid work in a pretty forgettable film, I can hardly be upset at the Academy if they finally decide to give her the big prize. (But please forgive me if I imagine it's actually for Safe, Far From Heaven, Boogie Nights...)

And predicting three out of the four other nominees that will join her with a nomination isn't too hard to see either, as they have all joined Moore at almost every juncture as well thus far. Rosamund Pike as disappearing "cool girl" Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, the real-life woman that walked the Pacific Crest Trail solo in Wild, and Felicity Jones as the ever-suffering, ever-supportive wife of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. If any of those four don't hear their name called on Thursday, it would be a shock (which this category could definitely need). And while I'd love to say that Marion Cotillard will easily take that fifth spot for her understated work in Two Days, One Night, it's not looking very likely. Early in the season people were gunning for a return of two-time winner Hilary Swank in The Horsemen, but those dreams dissolved as soon as the film was met with barely a mention. So the fifth spot comes down to two women. Both likable actresses that have each found favor with awards bodies this season. But while most are predicting a Jennifer Aniston nom for the little-seen Cake, thanks to a surge in campaigning and public appearances, for some reason I get a nagging feeling that it's gonna be the other Golden Globe Best Actress winner from Sunday, Amy Adams in Big Eyes. The Academy really likes her, having nominated her 5 times already (not all of them deserved...), and with her recent win and a nom from BAFTA, it just makes me feel she has the best chance still...

It seemed that every year there is the same story about not a lot of choices for Best Actress, but then the same women keep showing up again and again when there are plenty of interesting, outside-of-the-box choices to fill the category. This year the most deserving nominee not only gave one amazing performance getting Oscar buzz (see above), but she gave an even greater one as a Polish woman that comes to America in the early 1920s searching for the American dream...

FYC: Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant as Best Actress

Marion Cotillard has the kind of face, luminously lit from within and boundlessly expressive, that was made for the big screen. It's a timeless face that was made to read ever subtle emotion and  thought as it is projected larger-than-life in a darkened theatre, evoking the work of silent movie stars and classic Hollywood. And in many ways Cotillard's work in James Gray's The Immigrant, playing a Eastern European woman named Ewa Cybulska that escapes the turmoil in her country for a better life in the States, only to find herself caught in a world of poverty and prostitution, is hardly an unfamiliar character. There have been variations on this fallen woman almost as long as the profession itself has been around. But to expect something revelatory in the storytelling or in Ewa herself is to almost miss the point completely. The Immigrant and Cotillard's performance are an homage to classic melodrama. Unapologetically old fashioned, embracing a melancholy mood and romantically-tinged feeling, Cotillard harkens back to the work of such actresses as Ingrid Bergman or Maria Falconetti, and in the celebration of those past greats becomes a revelation herself.

From the moment we see the French Oscar winner, bathed in golden hues at the Great Hall of Ellis Island, alternating between speaking Polish and heavily-accented English, proving that not only is the role emotionally demanding, but technically challenging as well. (Cotillard has said she had only two months in order to learn the new language for the film.) She is at once open and inviting, her warmth drawing the audience in to her story, but at the same time, cautiously guarded. Ewa is not one to wear her emotions on her sleeve, determined to survive and unwavering in her love of her sister. But while Cotillard never gives away Ewa's true feelings to those around her, it is achingly felt by the audience through the slightest of gestures - a fleeting glimpse in her downcast eye or the slight turn of her head. And in moments where she lets her emotional walls break down - like when she is confronted by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), the lowlife that has kept her alive through her own degradation, for stealing from a fellow girl or when her Catholic guilt overwhelms her in the confessional booth - Cotillard's restraint dissolves, but without losing control of the character, she indulges in a cathartic release, gently letting the melodrama wash over her radiant face.

Over the years, to describe something as melodramatic has taken on a negative connotation, synonymous with over-indulgent emoting, but Cotillard in The Immigrant proves that you needn't wallow in over-the-top histrionics to stir up the same impassioned sensations. Her performance as Ewa is stirring, insightful, and simply lovely. For an institute like the Academy, which has honored the work of great actresses for the past 87 years, perhaps acknowledging the work of the past by honoring Cotillard with a nomination for her work here, an ode to those bygone icons, would be a way of bridging the storied history with a bright future.  

The Immigrant is available now for streaming on Netflix.

* * *

Final Best Actress Predictions
Amy Adams Big Eyes
Felicity Jones The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore Still Alice
Rosamund Pike Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon Wild

My Favorite Best Actress Performances
Marion Cotillard The Immigrant
Marion Cotillard Two Days, One Night
Essie Davis The Babadook
Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin
Gugu Mbatha-Raw Belle

Monday, January 12, 2015

Final Best Actor Predictions and a Plea for Fiennes

On Thursday, January 15th, the nominations for the 87th Annual Academy Awards will be announced and if last night's Golden Globes are any indication, it looks like the Best Actor win this year comes down to two performances: Eddie Redmayne's physically transformative work as Stephen Hawking in the Oscar-bait biopic The Theory of Everything and the comeback of 80s movie star Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a former superhero looking for an artistic rebirth in Birdman. I think the slight edge goes to Keaton, in a film more generally liked overall, and whose teary acceptance speech last night left many moved. The other three rounding out the category will undoubtably include Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game and Jake Gyllenhaal, who at one point seemed like a longshot, but after recognition from SAG, the Golden Globes, and BAFTA seems pretty secure with a nom. The last spot, once reserved for Steve Carell's dramatic work in Foxcatcher seems to have lost steam with a chilly reception for the film (I was not a fan). So given the love the Academy has for biopics, and how great the film actually is, I predict the 5th spot goes to David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma. A moving performance that brought some humanity to the revered icon.

Every year, there are great performances that just never mange to make it in the final five. And I can't always say that I ever really agree with the opinion of the Academy (actually, more times than not, we aren't in agreement. Previously, the week before nominations are announced, I've always selected a favorite performance of mine in each of the acting categories and made an impassioned plea that somehow they are honored with a nomination. (Check out previous years here and here.) I'm continuing it this year with my Best Actor pick, Ralph Fiennes in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

FYC: Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel as Best Actor

Classically trained, British Actor Ralph Fiennes has a reputation for being, well, intense. Perhaps it was due to the film that first brought him recognition and his first Oscar nomination (and what should've been a win), brilliantly playing a sadistic Nazi officer in Steven Spielberg's Best Picture winner Schindler's List (1993). Even when he became a romantic leading man, like in his other Oscar-nominated performance in another Best Picture winner The English Patient (1996), Fiennes still brought a smoldering intensity to his role. His love for Kristin Scott Thomas' Katharine almost more possessive and all-consuming than your regular affair. It doesn't help that he spends the majority of the film as a burn victim. From playing the noseless embodiment of pure evil as Harry Potter's Voldemort to a violent, expletive-spouting killer in the dark comedy, In Bruges, it's safe to say that a light-hearted Fiennes is not something we're accustomed to seeing.

Which is why his turn as Monsieur Gustave H. the concierge of the prestigious titular hotel at the center of Wes Anderson's colorfully detailed caper seems like such a departure for the actor and a wondrous revelation. As the suave, heavily-perfumed proprietor, Gustave has a tendency to be a little hands-on with the older, female clientele and Fiennes playing off his clipped, upper-crust persona relishes the opportunity to subvert his image. His Gustave H. is a bit of a cad and pretty much a snob, but Fiennes makes him endearingly so. Much has been said about how Anderson's films are perfectly calibrated and meticulously crafted, and Fiennes' comedic timing is just as precise - deadpan, droll, and there's nothing quite like hearing Fiennes deftly dropping a well-placed f-bomb to awaken a naughty comedic sensibility titillating in its execution.   

The Academy has a tendency to overlook performances as effortlessly enjoyable as this, preferring their actors to suffer for their art. But after years of watching Ralph Fiennes suffering to great effect, it would be wonderful if his foray into comedy was also able to be recognized by the Academy. And in a year of intense performances from other actors in biopics or disabilities, it only seems right that perhaps the Academy should lighten up a bit. After all, one of our most intense actors did this year and it couldn't have been better.

* * *

Final Best Actor Predictions
Benedict Cumberbatch The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton Birdman
David Oyelowo Selma
Eddie Redmayne The Theory of Everything

My Favorite Best Actor Performances
Ralph Fiennes The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal Nightcrawler
Tom Hardy Locke
John Lithgow Love Is Strange
Jack O'Connell Starred Up

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Twice a Best Actress: Olivia de Havilland

With the recent death of Luise Rainer (who we just discussed recently for this very series), Olivia de Havilland at the age of 98 is now the oldest living Oscar winner among the actors. She made her film debut at the age of 19 playing Hermia in the 1935 film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream and quickly signed a 7 year contract with Warner Bros where they often paired her alongside Errol Flynn, whom she appeared with 8 times on screen. But de Havilland is probably best known today for her performance as Melanie in Gone With the Wind, which brought her the first of an eventual 5 Oscar nominations. In addition to the Best Supporting Actress nom for GWTW, she received Best Actress nominations for Hold Back the Dawn (1941) and The Snake Pit (1948) and won twice for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). She competed against her own sister, Joan Fontaine, in 1941 where Fontaine won for the Hitchcock film Suspicion. The sisters had a fierce rivalry. They were so opposed to each that that they stopped speaking in 1975. Fontaine once remarked about her sister, "I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she'll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!" Fontaine actually died recently in 2013...But they still stand as the only siblings to win Lead Acting Oscars. Both de Havilland's Oscar winning performances were discussed as part of our Twice A Best Actress roundtable from Fisti at A Fistful of Films. And it almost didn't happen. You would think that an actress as celebrated as de Havilland, in an Oscar winning performance, no less, would have her film legacy available for viewing. But her first Best Actress win is unavailable on DVD or streaming in the US. We simply must preserve our film history, it would be a shame if Oscar legacy disappeared completely. Otherwise, how would we ever be able to discuss an actress like Olivia de Havilland?

Olivia de Havilland

Best Actress 1946

Olivia de Havilland To Each His Own
Celia Johnson Brief Encounter*
Jennifer Jones Duel in the Sun
Rosalind Russell Sister Kenny
Jane Wyman The Yearling

My Thoughts on de Havilland as Jody Norris in To Each His Own: "Although de Havilland has cited the role as one of her favorites, truthfully, the part is rather passive and the actress doesn’t dig very deeply into the different aspects of this mother’s grief, often choosing the most obvious choice..." (Click here for the complete write-up) C-

Best Actress 1949

Jeanne Crain Pinky
Olivia de Havilland The Heiress*
Susan Hayward My Foolish Heart
Deborah Kerr Edward, My Son
Loretta Young Come to the Stable

My Thoughts on de Havilland as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress: "But as masterful as she is at playing both facets of Catherine, they never believably feel like they belong to the same person..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) B

*My Choices for Best Actress. Although, I have not seen the other nominees in either year, so take these with a grain of salt. My choice on Johnson is based solely on reputation, but feel the real winner should have been Ingrid Bergman for NOTORIOUS, who wasn't even nominated.   

Have You Met the Oscar Contenders?

Over at The Film Experience, I just finished up a weekly series I've been doing since October called "Meet the Contenders". Each weekend from a newly released film, I selected an actor looking to score their first Oscar nomination and highlighted their performance. Not all of them will have a legitimate shot at even being in the running, but I really wanted to shine the light on certain actors or bring certain actors doing great work into the conversation. So, head on over and read about them all before nominations are announced on Thursday morning!

Meet the Contenders

Best Actor
Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz in Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game
Oscar Isaac as Abel Morales in A Most Violent Year
David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma

Best Actress
Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl
Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons as Fletcher in Whiplash
Sam Rockwell as Craig in Laggies
Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince in Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actress
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman
Rene Russo as Nina Romina in Nightcrawler
Kristen Stewart as Lydia Howland in Still Alice
Katherine Waterston as Shasta Fey Hepworth in Inherent Vice