Tuesday, December 01, 2015

December Oscar Predictions: The Acting Categories

In addition to getting a lot of reviews out the door this week (again, I hope you're going to like them-it won't just be in-theater movies, but also a few random OVP films from the 1940's as well), we're going to be checking in with the Oscars.  It's the first week in December now, so we're in that weird holding pattern where there's about 8-10 candidates in each category, but while we can make solid guesses, we don't 100% know if anyone is safe.  Every year there's at least one actor or actress that made complete sense on paper, but then suddenly they miss with the Globes, and then SAG, and by the time Oscar rolls around they're either a longshot pick or totally forgotten.  Which of these men and women are going to be the longshots and which will be surefire winners?  We'll find out in a few weeks-in the meantime, it's about time you start seeing some of these movies if you want to be informed this season...

Best Actress

We start, of course, with the most important category, Best Actress, which let's just say this year has been a daunting endeavor.  I honestly feel that this may be the Best Actress year since 1995, a 20-year high for a category that is the obsession of almost every Oscar hound but usually a bit of a chagrin for those who want a large number of options.  In past years someone like Emily Blunt (Sicario) or Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van...hell, even Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash would be on the higher end of predictions, but this year they feel like also-rans.

I think at this point it appears like Brie Larson (Room), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn-review coming later this week but I was a fan), and Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) are all toward the top of the heap.  I could see a situation where one of the smaller films gets dropped or J Law-fatigue settles in, but that doesn't quite add at this point and I think it would be foolish to leave any of them out.  That leaves two slots, and a bevy of women to decide between.  Blythe Danner (I'll See You in My Dreams), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Lily Tomlin (Grandma) are all legendary actresses who have never won an Oscar, and only Lily Tomlin has even been nominated in the past, but none of them had the sort of hit that would automatically warrant inclusion, and 45 Years (arguably the strongest contender, all things being equaled considering Rampling's position in acting circles) is the least well-known.  Carey Mulligan has the sort of film that would normally be a slam-dunk, but Suffragette has quickly disappeared from the entire conversation, and she's missed before when she had a BAIT-y role (Shame).  Cate Blanchett seemed to have an issue for a while there with Carol vs. Truth, but Carol is clearly the film that is getting all of the attention at this point, and I suspect she won't have to worry too much about vote-splitting with herself.  It remains to be seen whether she'll vote split with her costar, as no one seems to be buying Rooney Mara in supporting (and to a lesser degree, Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl with the same position).  I can't tell whether Harvey wants to risk Mara in supporting-while she has a better chance of winning if she's in that category, a double nomination in Best Actress would be a very big marketing deal (it'd be the first such situation in 24 years), and would probably mean more for his bottom line.  Plus, that fifth slot is pretty up for grabs, so we'll see if their campaign bites.  In the meantime...

My Predictions (alphabetical for all): Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Saoirse Ronan

Best Actor

That drop in quality you hear is something we all sort of concur with this year-Best Actor is not strong in 2015, certainly not in the way it has been in some recent years nor in the way it should be when compared to Best Actress.  Still, as I always say, five people get to be Oscar nominees, and one of those men this year is surely going to be Leonardo DiCaprio.  The entire collective internet seems to be having an orgasm over the prospect of Leo finally winning an Oscar (I had an uncomfortable conversation at a happy hour a few weeks ago where I argued with a bunch of people a decade younger than me that Glenn Close or Annette Bening have more to complain about than Leo, but to no avail).  It doesn't really matter that this looks like a difficult role to sell for the win nor that (despite having a lot of opportunities through the years) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu hasn't been able to land a Best Actor trophy yet-everyone wants Leo to be at the Kodak again, and he probably will be considering The Revenant's buzz and late entry into the race.

No one else seems to have that sort of hold on a nomination, which is rare this late in the game.  Someone like Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) makes sense on paper, but no one saw his movie and considering its position in Sony's lackluster year, maybe Hollywood would just as soon forget it happened.  Michael Caine (Youth) would make history if he were to be nominated, but Youth is so small and critics vary wildly over its chances.  Eddie Redmayne won last year and could get an afterglow nomination, but buzz for The Danish Girl seems to have subsided with the exception of Alicia Vikander, and AMPAS can't really be accused of undervaluing Redmayne.  Matt Damon is headlining a populist hit, but Tom Hanks did the same thing two decades ago and while his picture made it, he sure didn't (Hanks himself could be in the conversation, though after missing for Captain Phillips I don't trust that the actors branch hasn't moved beyond him at this point).  Will Smith is such a big movie star that Concussion could even land him a trophy if it takes off, but considering his place in Hollywood and this film's subject matter shouldn't the buzz be louder for this movie?  Names like Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes) and Michael B. Jordan (Creed) even are thrown around, but that feels more like trying to fill out the field than anything else.  I'd accuse those championing Johnny Depp in Black Mass of something similar, but he's doing way better in buzz than I ever anticipated, even though it's for a movie I didn't think anyone remembered.  Is this a J. Edgar situation where he makes sense until he doesn't, or can he randomly land for a film that no one will remember in a year?  All-in-all, I could be sold on about eight of these names, but right now I feel like the below five have the best shots (though only Leo doesn't make me raise an eyebrow):

My Predictions: Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Will Smith

Best Supporting Actress

The category fraud question hangs large here.  By any normal metric, Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander would be easy contenders here-lead roles campaigning for supporting, both up-and-coming actresses who have had a big couple of last years.  However both are considered leads, and will be campaigned as such come the Globes, which could cost them in a Scarlett Johansson-style cut (lest we forget, ScarJo missed out on what would have been a surefire nomination in 2003 by trying to be supporting when everyone thought she was lead).  It remains to be seen how critics' organizations or even HFPA will factor here (if they miss in lead at the Globes, that might actually help with Oscar), but either name could make it here, or lead, or (more easily than you'd think even if they both look solid) neither.

Still, even if both make it we've still got three slots to fill, and one of those feels like it will be Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs.  Another role with major screentime, Winslet is Steve Jobs best shot at a nomination in my opinion, and the Academy will be eager to welcome back one of their favorites for a role everyone raved was against-type when the movie came out a few months ago.  Her competitors are hard to tell, however.  Rachel McAdams is the only woman in a major Best Picture nominee, but her role is hardly what you'd consider showy, and she's not exactly an Academy favorite (plus Vera Farmiga and Freida Pinto both prove that the only-female strategy isn't foolproof).  The same could be said for Jennifer Jason Leigh, but she's famously not an Academy favorite and doesn't it feel like Quentin Tarantino may soon be out of fashion with Oscar (who doesn't care too much for controversy these days)?  Jane Fonda is barely in Youth (she has to have less than eight minutes of screentime), but she's also Jane Fonda-that helps move the ballots.  Julie Walters (Brooklyn), Joan Allen (Room), and Diane Ladd (Joy) all have smallish roles in Best Picture contenders, but they're also all three Oscar-nominated favorites who have never won the trophy.  Elizabeth Banks is pushing hard to get nominated for Love & Mercy (one of those random early-in-the-year films that gains buzz toward the end of the year), but I'm getting a bit of an Ann Dowd in Compliance vibe here where she gets critics and nothing more.  Rachel Weisz (Youth) and Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria) are both names that might randomly show up at a critics award or BFCA sixth slot or something, but I don't feel like they have any traction.  And finally, while I found her role a bit outlandish and hammy, Helen Mirren (Trumbo) is someone you never dismiss completely out-of-hand when it comes to awards season.

My Predictions: Jane Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rooney Mara, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actor

Another performance that has confounded me all season has been Benicio del Toro in Sicario.  This is a film, much like Depp in Black Mass that most people think will stick around, even if the film itself isn't really remembered by anyone.  Del Toro is an Academy favorite (like Depp), and has a memorable character, but it's always hard to tell when Oscar will have a long memory.  However, this is the category that he seems to do it in (he likes his older, respected veterans in tough, standout roles), so del Toro is probably going to make it even if Sicario can't hold muster anywhere else (save Cinematography, but we'll get there soon enough).

Another contender most everyone seems to assume will make the cut, or rather two contenders, are the Spotlight lads, namely Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, both nominees last year who could be making it back-to-back, becoming the first men to both be nominated for the same film in the same category since 1991's Bugsy (Stanley Tucci is also occasionally bandied about, but he probably lost this spot when Keaton decided not to go lead).  Mark Rylance has two Tony Awards on his shelf, and enough New York-based Oscar voters exist that he could add a nomination to his cavalcade for Bridge of Spies.  Idris Elba could prove, like House of Cards a few years back, that Oscar doesn't mind a complete change in its distribution model, though his film is almost completely unseen and will rely (perhaps too) heavily on critics awards (he'll need some precursor support or risk being lost in the scuffle in a category where group think settles in quickly).  Jacob Tremblay is such a lead character that part of me thinks the Academy won't buy him in this role in the same way they didn't Quvenzhane Wallis or Keisha Castle-Hughes, but younger male performers just can't crack lead so I'll keep him in this conversation for now.  Harvey Keitel is an acting legend, and if Youth is big he might make it but Caine and Fonda have gained most of the heat.  Tom Hardy has been all over the place lately, and like Benedict Cumberbatch may end up eventually making it into the Oscars, but he'll need The Revenant to be a huge hit AND not just the Leo Show in order for that to translate.  Robert de Niro (and Edgar Ramirez) both have Joy to rely upon, but can de Niro make it yet again for a Russell picture?  And let's not forget Paul Dano, who has gained major plaudits and some precursors for Love & Mercy, though that film's Oscar chances are increasingly difficult to gage.

Which leaves us with this year's strangest situation: Sylvester Stallone in Creed.  The film, more a reinvention of the Rocky franchise than the sequel, won universal praise (the strangest project to do so all year), and seems to be a film that people seriously think could score at the Oscars.  Stallone was nominated for his role in the first Rocky film some 39 years ago, and it seems impossible-on-paper for him to return again, but a lot of people seem to think this could happen, and it's not like the Globes and the BFCA's, eager to crown a longtime Hollywood vet, might not bite.  We'll see, but Sylvester Stallone may just make it back into the Oscar ring (and that's a pun you're going to be hearing a lot if he does).

My Predictions: Benicio del Toro, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Rylance, Sylvester Stallone

And there we are-what are your thoughts?  Who do you think the twenty actors that are going to be nominated are?  Share your predictions below!

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