By and large pundits seem to have narrowed down the Best Actress category, sadly before all the films have even premiered, to about 6 or 7 women... but many of them won't be able to win for their roles (when you've already won it's more difficult to build a "more" case - this ain't the Emmys) so the fight for the actual statue will probably not be bloody at all. Here you go, Cate! The supporting categories (both male and female) are still hugely competitive as far as nominations go but again the winning could well be set in stone as soon as the nominations are facts rather than assumptions.
But Best Actor just can't be narrowed down. Not yet at least. [more...]
There are too many contenders unwilling to budge, too many for whom you could build a solid argument. I'd argue that we don't even have a frontrunner yet. Which is the way it should be before the movies have all premiered though not often the way that it is. My argument is this: squint your eyes and imagine scenarios and narratives that might play out over the next 5 months and who might conceivably hold a statue in their hands in March 2014. It's still possible to imagine six different men as winners. And six is greater than five which means the fight for nominations could be brutal.
And this doesn't even account for possibilities like Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, Michael B Jordan in Fruitvale, Joaquin Phoenix in Her, or Christian Bale in American Hustle all of whom strike me as still being in the hunt for shortlisting if the campaigns are smart, the precursors are kind, and the films win the right kind of year-end hoopla. I realize that's a lot of "if"s. Future winners they're not but future nominees? One or two of 'em might be.
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer's Club) has offscreen charisma (an advantage for campaigning), considerable recent acclaim and momentum, and a showy fiercely committed star turn with which to clobber the industry into submission, especially since he's been knocking supporting roles out of the park lately, too. But do they want him to win? When McConaughey first broke through with A Time To Kill (1995) he was quickly compared to Paul Newman in media profiles and reviews. AMPAS made Newman wait until he was 62 to win despite a filmography that was roughly 1 million times as impressive as the one McConaughey's been building. And if they love McConaughey so much where was his nod for Magic Mike last year, for a performance superior to ALL of last year's actual supporting nominees.
Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Robert Redford (All is Lost) are both very real possibilities as nominees if you account for their reviews . They're potential winners if you account for the career honors factor. And you should. AMPAS is notoriously "in the moment" when it comes to actresses, regularly honoring them at the beginning of their careers before they've really proven anything beyond Future Promise. But with men, they want some years on them --a statistical fact -- and the industry by and large seems to really dig "thanks for the career!" prizes for men.
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) has four major things going for him right now. One) he's never won and Oscar eventually crowns the box office kings. Two) it's a showy "fun" looking-role and his competition is more severe in temperament and lord knows a curveball of mood was just what Leo needed since his roles were getting uncomfortably dour. Three) this might be vaguely reminiscent of a previous Oscar winner; Oscar loved the bad boy 'greed is good' antics of the last movie star Wall Street wolf. Four) the movie is still a wild card and people aren't really predicting Leo to win which means he can't wear out his welcome and fall from a pedestal he isn't on. He might still have an element of surprise if he (and the movie) really delivers. But still... he's often "snubbed" in the mainstream perception -- I mean I'm perfectly content with the lack of recent nominations but the majority of the moviegoing public is not -- suggesting that maybe there are pockets of the Academy that just aren't that into him.
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) could well be our prime stealth candidate who suddenly becomes a steamroller. I'm actually confounded that more pundits aren't betting on him. Yes, Foxcatcher is the most mysterious of all the films that have yet to screen and yes Carell is not exactly an Oscar Commodity but consider: Bennett Miller has to date never failed to win his actors nominations and though he's only made two narrative features (Capote & Moneyball) that's still quite a feat; Mental/Physical disabilities are literally the #1 Bait Gimmick with which to hook Oscar voters in this particular category and he's playing a schizophrenic; Carell does still carry a "comedian" persona to some degree and Oscar loves a funnyman who gets serious; they also love a prosthetic nose. I rest my case.... all four of them.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) because it never ever ever ever ever hurts Best Actor candidates to be in the frontrunner for Best Picture. In fact, about 28% of Best Picture winners have also won Best Actor, which is an astounding stat. Yes, yes, the cries of "12 Years a Slave has already won Best Picture!" are super annoying and also terrible for the actual movie and our collective soul, but the point is that it IS in the lead, for what little that's worth, at this very moment. But even if it weren't, Chiwetel proves once again with his compelling performance that he's a potent screen presence and one of our (to this date) most underappreciated great actors.
Which five men do you think will still be standing in February to win nominations? And do you think about wins before nominations or do you try, like me, to keep the possibilities alive in your cranium?