Tuesday, September 09, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

As proof that these articles are a bit silly to be writing right now, as I pointed out in my Best Actress article, these are all just a snapshot, since clearly after the raves The Theory of Everything Felicity Jones got at Toronto she’ll likely go lead and might even win the entire thing.

Still, though, it’s a fun bit of silliness and I hate starting things I don’t complete (the 2013 OVP is starting up again this week, I promise), so we’ll continue on with Best Actor.  This category always feels ridiculously full, and once again that’s the case with a number of actors taking on many challenging roles, though I must admit that even here I feel a tad underwhelmed.  I genuinely get bored with AMPAS’s bizarre and constant love of biopics.  The reality is that while these are occasionally brilliant (Zodiac, A Social Network, basically the David Fincher ones), by-and-large they are boring because they stick to well-known and predictable narratives and while they occasionally have superb acting, they rarely delve into tangents and interesting ways of telling a story.

Still, though, this is about Oscar’s opinions and not mine, and Oscar loves him a biopic, which should surely help the handsome and affable Eddie Redmayne make his way into the Academy’s good graces.  The Theory of Everything got an outstanding response in Toronto and though he is pretty young by this category’s standards, I still think we should count on his name amongst the nominees.

Ditto Steve Carell, playing against type in Foxcatcher.  The constant delays for this film makes me raise an eyebrow, but Bennett Miller got lead nominations for both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Brad Pitt-I doubt that this will be any different.  The real question continues to be whether or not Channing Tatum correctly campaigns here or if he is demoted to a supporting performance ala Julia Roberts last year.  I’m guessing supporting for now, so that gets us to two.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game has a little bit of a smell around it right now in my opinion, though I am basing that on nothing other than the trailer, which gave away the entire movie (that always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and makes me a bit nervous about the movie).  Still, this is Harvey’s big player this year, and it’s hard to imagine Cumberbatch, who is at “that moment” in his career, going much longer without Oscar attention, especially for something so BAIT-y.

Continuing the oddly first-timer heavy aspect of this category (really, there’s a decent chance that all five of the nominees in this category will be first-time nominees, which would be the first time this has happened in Best Actor since 1934) we have Michael Keaton, back from the career abyss with a show-stopping role in Birdman.  Hats off to Keaton for playing a very meta character (a washed-up actor most famous for playing a superhero…sound familiar?), and I think that if this delivers Keaton could be in a position very similar to Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler a few years ago.

There are a number of former winners/nominees, of course, that could continue that 1934 streak.  Bill Murray is getting strong recognition for St. Vincent, and is clearly pushing for a nomination for that role.  You’ve got Tommy Lee Jones in yet another passion project for The Homesman (hey, it worked with In the Valley of Elah) and Matthew McConaughey could have an afterglow for Interstellar, though with True Detective already out doesn’t it feel like he’s been rewarded enough?  Brad Pitt is back once again with Fury and that certainly looks captivating, though Pitt’s so good so often these days I wonder if the Academy will continue to recognize this.  And there’s of course Joaquin Phoenix, who gets put in Oscar’s good graces as often as he’s ignored, but Inherent Vice has a solid aura surrounding it.

That being said, I think we’re looking at a first-timer at this point for the fifth slot.  Jack O’Connell is the lead of one of the year’s biggest pictures (Unbroken), but is probably too young at 24 and way too hot to be nominated in a category that likes their nominees middle-aged and sexless.  Timothy Spall is leading a Mike Leigh film which is occasionally good for an acting citation (though Leigh's more consistent for writing, where he's almost certain to be nominated again this year).  Therefore, my gut is telling me that this is going to go to David Oyelowo at this point.  His star is on the rise after The Butler, and Selma has that sort of feel of a film that is going to land a huge number of nominations.

My Predictions: I’ve kind of already gone there (Cumberbatch, Oyelowo, Carell, Keaton, and Redmayne).  If I had to name some names that I think are being underestimated, we’ve got Gael Garcia Bernal (Jon Stewart is going to campaign the hell out his Rosewater and everyone likes Stewart), Spall (whom I already listed but bears repeating: he did win Cannes, after all), and perhaps Oscar Isaac who is a major emerging talent but may be picking too Indy of films with Inside Llewyn Davis last year and A Most Violent Year this year (which will help him in the long run with his career but will probably mean he’ll have to wait for a milquetoast biopic in a few years to compete with Oscar).
Is there a winner? Oddly, while his costar Jones is nearly the perfect age to win, Eddie Redmayne is almost certainly too young to win Best Actor with Oscar.  Instead, I’d suspect that he’ll settle for an “investment nomination” and he’ll applaud for either Keaton or Carell, both of whom are at the right point in their careers to pull off a Forest Whitaker-style win (winning on what will likely be your only nomination).  How bizarre would it be for Steve Carell to have an Emmy but no Oscar though?  Share your thoughts on this and this entire slate in the comments!

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