Generation Film’s 2013 Academy Award (Oscar) Nominee Predictions Pt. 2: The Acting Categories

Bruce Dern as Woody in a film still from NebraskaBest Actor

Who will most likely be nominated:

  1. Chiwetel Ejiofor (12  Years a Slave)
  2. Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  3. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  4. Robert Redford (All is Lost)
  5. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)

Some potential sleepers: Forrest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

all-is-lost-redfordThis might become one of the most competitive and divisive categories this coming year only because there were so many exceptional performances delivered by incredibly talented players who are all beloved in some form or another for previous works. Considering the Academy’s age and their love for veteran performers it’s a safe bet they will head in the direction of recognizing all of the elderly and aging actors that they love (an aspect that will repeat itself in the Best Actress category). This means that two veterans with competent performances will grace the nominee list come January and those are Tom Hanks and Robert Redford who both give steady performances that both have moments of emotional outburst. It seems it might be Bruce Dern’s time to finally get some wide recognition for his extensive career in the film industry and what a performance to recognize because it’s clearly an exceptional one of him portraying a determined and regretting man with increasing dementia. There will be some newcomers that will grace the nominee list and those few spots will most go to Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey. These past couple of years have been coined the McConaughey renaissance and what a worthy description of his phenomenal abilities showcased in not only Dallas Buyers Club but also for Mud, a brief but extremely memorable moment in The Wolf of Wall Street, Killer Joe, Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, and many, many others. If I had to put money on who could possibly win out of these fine and talented actors it would probably be Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The only above sleeper that I feel doesn’t deserve a nomination nor did he deserve a SAG nomination is Forrest Whitaker for his Forrest Gump and Being There knock off performance in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Whitaker undoubtedly has talent but compared to every single other sleeper from DiCaprio’s unhinged exuberance in The Wolf of Wall Street or Joaquin Phoenix’s antisocial vulnerability in Her or Oscar Issac’s melodic yet unpleasant demeanor in Inside Llewyn Davis Whitaker’s performance just pales in comparison. It’s unfortunate that it’s such a competitive year because David O. Russells’ ability to inspire great performances and especially out of Christian Bale in American Hustle might not be as recognized as his sweep of nominations in all of the acting categories last year with Silver Linings Playbook. One last thought on the sleepers and that pertains to Mads Mikkelsen’s hauntingly emotional performance in the Danish film The Hunt this year which did get him a Best Actor award at Cannes in 2012. He might be the biggest long shot to actually receive recognition but everything from his simple expressions to the depth of his eyes expressed more in a single moment than some of these performers did in their physical showmanship.

dallas-buyers-club-1If I were to pick the five nominees for Best Actor they would probably be the following:

  1. Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  2. Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  3. Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  4. Joaquin Phoenix (Her)
  5. Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt)

Though my personal list of preference deviates drastically from the main list I consider will be the nominees my objections are minimal because Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, and Robert Redford all gave remarkable performances that I respect. It all comes down to personal preference for this part of the list and next in line would have been Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis because his depth musically and personally was quite something to behold. Okay, moving on.

blue-jasmine2Best Actress

Another category that will probably be dominated by veteran dames who possess remarkable talents that shift between the comedic and the dramatic is the Best Actress category. Who will probably be nominated are the following five:

  1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  2. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
  4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
  5. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Some potential sleepers: Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Amy Adams (American Hustle), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), Berenice Bejo (The Past), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Kate Winslet (Labor Day), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)

emmathompsonLet’s first of all commend all of these great performances, especially the tour de force control of Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and Emma Thompson accurately embodying the unpleasant prickliness of writer P.L. Travers. Both of these veterans have been recognized in some form or another in recent years but they truly stepped up their game and deserve to be nominated without any ounce of doubt. Many people know me as a Meryl Streep skeptic and have been quoted to saying that watching one of her performances is like watching the gears turn in a clock meaning it’s impressive to see how it works but it’s always a tad alienating. However, her astounding control of dark humor and sheer bitterness in August: Osage County left me dumbfounded to her abilities and proved to me what makes her such an inspiration to aspiring actresses in all varying generations. The two on the bottom that could be in danger of being replaced are the remarkable Judi Dench for her elegantly reserved and poignant take on Philomena Lee in the Stephen Frears’ film Philomena and Amy Adams as a sensual con artist in David O. Russell’s American Hustle who utilizes every part of her body and being to fit the character. This would be a fine selection of actresses with Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett vying for the win and I wouldn’t object to either but my vote would go to Blanchett if I had my way.

For an industry that doesn’t often have quality and quantity roles for leading women it’s certainly refreshing to have a year chock full of amazing performances that are worthy of Oscar recognition. There are numerous newcomers from the sexually enlightened performance from Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color to Greta Gerwig’s carefree embodiment of quarter life malaise in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (which she co-wrote with Baumbach). Both of these women showcased very different aspects of a young adult’s life that struck an authentic chord in self-discovery one of sensual origin and the other of professional focus. Each of them could be easily joined by the talented Brie Larson who not only delivered a heartfelt performance of an abused girl who puts on face to help cast aside suicidal, drug abusing, or juvenile delinquent young teens in Short Term 12 but she also memorably appeared in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon and the gripping teen romance The Spectacular Now. It’s the young versus the old with some truly remarkable actresses caught in between with Berenice Bejo dramatically commanding director Asghar Faradi’s new film The Past, Sandra Bullock (who could definitely pull a nomination surprise) emotionally attaching us to her struggles in the vastness of space in Gravity, and Julie Delpy balancing the comedic and dramatic aspects of an idealistic relationship hitting its more tumultuous waters.

Philomena2If I were nominating the five actresses for the Oscar my list would probably consist of the following five:

  1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  2. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  3. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
  4. Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
  5. Brie Larson (Short Term 12)

It’s great that there are so many great roles to choose from this year and though my preferences include a bit of the old and a bit of the new slightly ignoring the middle grouping it’s only because Sandra Bullock has recently won, Amy Adams was good but not breathtaking, and Judi Dench, while satisfying in her balancing act, never reaches the levels of vulnerability, control, or risk that every single woman above captured with great style and grace.

Dallas-Buyers-Club-LetoBest Supporting Actor

One of the most competitive categories every year not only within the nominees themselves but also in the number of potential sleepers that could slip in is the Best Supporting Actor category. The five the Academy will most likely go with are the following five:

  1. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
  2. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  3. Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  4. Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
  5. Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

Some potential sleepers: Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis), Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners), Chris Cooper (August: Osage County)

12-Years-A-SlaveSince each of the performances from the aforementioned main five are all high caliber performances there’s very little objection to be made if they ended up being the actual nominees. The two lead contenders though have to be Jared Leto for his transvestite confidence hiding his vulnerability to AIDs in Dallas Buyers Club and Michael Fassbender’s domineering presence as a Bible toting slave owner with no sense of mercy in 12 Years a Slave. While it’s turning out that Leto is emerging as the most accepted frontrunner my vote would have to go to Fassbender because his performance was flawless and showcased a mastery of the art with impeccable precision. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of capable winners still sitting in the category including Bradley Cooper’s humorous take on a perm wearing FBI agent determined to make his career in exposing political corruption in American Hustle. Just last year Cooper was up for the Best Actor category so it’s possible that his talents are fresh in the Academy’s mind making it very likely for a nomination though a tad difficult for a win (but who knows with the Academy since Christoph Waltz undeservedly won last year for a role he had basically won for before in Inglourious Basterds). Bringing up the questionable back end that could inevitably be replaced by other contenders are Daniel Bruhl as the iconic formula one racer Niki Lauda and first time performer Barkhad Abdi as a Somali pirate looking for a better life by any means necessary in Captain Phillips.

One name that is getting thrown around a lot especially after the SAG award nomination is James Gandolfini for his last semi-lead performance in Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said. While this was one of her more enjoyable films to watch (Friends With Money is a pretty low standard) and Gandolfini was just as good as he has been in numerous other films there is not one piece of his performance that warrants any recognition beyond the fact that he died, which I find to be rather insulting to other actors more deserving of the recognition who just happened to not die. John Goodman’s scene stealing came as an arrogant jazz musician in Inside Llewyn Davis was far more impressive than Gandolfini’s entire performance throughout Enough Said and certainly Tom Hanks as the creative yearning force of Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks also trumps Gandolfini. A whole laundry list of other possible nominees should be considered and at the top of it should be Jonah Hill in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street who transforms his physical appearance, adopts a specific vernacular, and steals every scene he’s part of even alongside the always commanding presence of Leonardo DiCaprio. If Hill somehow managed to garner another nomination after his surprise Moneyball nomination (one he didn’t deserve but this one he would) it would be a great recognition but still would have a hard time beating both Leto and Fassbender.

06-enough-saidMy nominations for the Best Supporting Actor category would probably be the following five:

  1. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  2. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
  3. Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  4. Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  5. Daniel Bruhl (Rush)

Not too many changes but it was a tough call because my love for Inside Llewyn Davis makes me want to pick John Goodman but it was a mere moment in the experience while the above actors brought a pure and essential element to the films they were contributing to. There were other supporting performances that caught my attention this year but the above five were my preferential favorites.

o-AMERICAN-HUSTLE-TRAILER-facebookBest Supporting Actress

A good part of this section will be devoted to a huge objection I have with the erroneous consideration of a particular nominee but let’s just be general for a moment and list the most likely nominees the Academy will select for Best Supporting Actress.

  1. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
  2. Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)
  3. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  4. June Squibb (Nebraska)
  5. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)

Some potential sleepers: Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color), Margo Martindale (August: Osage County), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)

THE BUTLER

If newcomer Lupita Nyong’o doesn’t get the award for her emotionally powerful and devastatingly raw portrayal of the dark side of being a slave owner’s favorite in 12 Years a Slave then we will again have a reason to doubt the Academy’s credibility (which is always in question), especially if Oprah Winfrey is now being considered the possible favorite. Lee Daniels’ The Butler was a rather mediocre film with some good moments that usually featured the boozing, cheating wife to the amicable Butler played sufficiently by Oprah Winfrey. Was it an award worthy performance? It most certainly is not. Winfrey displays some credible acting chops throughout the entire film but never really approaches the level of talent most of these other women bring to the table, especially the hilariously inappropriate June Squibb in Nebraska and a surprising turn as a Long Island house wife for Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. Because these two performances are comedic in their core they will always get outshined by the melodramatic performances of which Oprah Winfrey is included. Julia Roberts might obtain a nomination simply because she was decent amongst a cast of exceptional performers but she isn’t the most deserving even in the cast she has been chosen from.

A more deserving August: Osage County cast member would be the always marvelous Margo Martindale who showcases multiple layers in her performance as the judgmental and verbally free Aunt Mattie Fae. Another equally deserving nominee would be Octavia Spencer as the concerned tough love mother in Fruitvale Station, which had more depth and authenticity than Oprah Winfrey’s tolerable performance. Two more comedic yet dramatic incarnations come from Carey Mulligan and Sally Hawkins in Inside Llewyn Davis and Blue Jasmine respectively and though neither of them could win against some of these other potential nominees they did showcase a great side of their talents that has existed in numerous films already in their repertoire. Finally one of the non-mentioned but truly exceptional performances this year came from French actress Lea Seydoux as the icon of lust, first love, and sexual emergence in Blue is the Warmest Color. Throughout the multiple hour film she embodied risk in her performance and made us believe that she was a personality worth falling for and eventually have our hearts broken when she becomes ever more distant from the lead.

will-forte-bruce-dern-bob-odenkirk-june-squibb-nebraska

It would be a tough call based on preference and objective consideration but my five nominees would most likely be the following:

  1. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
  2. June Squibb (Nebraska)
  3. Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color)
  4. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  5. Margo Martindale (August: Osage County)

Only a couple of changes but they are principle changes because both Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts are securing nominations based on who they are and not on who they became in their performances and that is the ass backwards way of nominating performances for an Academy Award (or basically the usual way they go about nominating roles for an Academy Award).

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