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Tuesday
Jan262016

Best Acting, Male Division: Personal Ballots & Oscar Charts

In the war of scene-stealing antagonists this year, Oscar Isaac's Nathan (Ex Machina) > Tom Hardy's Fitzgerald (The Revenant). We love both actors here at TFE and loved them before the rest of the web did (brag brag) but when it comes down to awards season you have to make tough choices.

That's just a handy way of saying Oscar and I go our separate ways more often than not in the acting categories but now both lists are available for your (hopeful) entertainment... 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
On the subject of category placement antagonists are often tricky. They definitely move the plot -- neither The Revenant or Ex Machina can function without these devious men, but often you can see either argument for lead or supporting. While Ex Machina arguably has three leads being such a chamber drama I occasionally relax the soapbox for performances that straddle the divide. A recent rewatch of Ex Machina confirmed that Oscar Isaac would make whichever shortlist we put him in (and I'd switched him back and forth during the year in drafts). It's such an inventive approach to a thoroughly imagined character so I tossed the dice and supporting he went. Now watch him tear up this fucking dance floor...

Only one of Oscar's men makes my own personal ballot (just posted) with apologies to Mark Rylance who I thought would place but he fell in the dread sixth spot! It happens. I've completed the Oscar chart as well and included trivia for this golden sausage party. Speaking of sausage parties... I think this is the first male Oscar lineup ever in which ALL the men have gone full frontal in other movies. Weird, right? It's an exhibitionist group this year. This only occurred to me to check because I was a big fan of Intimacy (2001) back in the day which starred Mark Rylance and everyone knows that Sly starred in a porno before Rocky (1976)

The charts also include our "How'd they get nominated" fun. So here's a sample -- the Tom Hardy in The Revenant edition: 

25% Leo's bro power pulls his main men in w/ him
21% Spicy Bait: Villains prioritized in this category 
20% Timing. 'The Revenant' was the shiniest new toy
15% Everyone wishes they could have punched Iñárritu in the face
10% Performance - they like 'em BIG to shake up slow epics (see also: The Zeéeeee in 'Cold Mountain')
9% 'Mad Max Fury Rd'

P.S. I should not that though Hardy didn't make my top 12 in supporting I appreciate his go for broke attempts to save The Revenant from its own grandiose self-importance with a little cured ham.

Matt Damon a nominee at both the Oscars & the Film Bitch AwardsBEST LEADING ACTOR 
Given the weirdly unanimous "meh" factor that Oscar's shortlist has produced in audiences, at least on the web, it's hard to imagine it coming to be at all. But then you remember the media complicity in producing these sorts of safe groupings of all-stars whether or not people were actually hugely impressed with their work. Oscar produced a list of five major players who unfortunately could have been nominated based on the roles themselves before anyone saw the work (always a problem!). You've got your reigning Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), your mega stars (Leonardo DiCaprio & Matt Damon), and your highly-revered thespians (Bryan Cranston & Michael Fassbender) with all but one of them (Damon) playing real life people. That's the baitiest of bait to awards types -- not just Oscar! --  though after 15 years of covering movies and awards seasons I still can't fathom why playing someone who really exists/existed is so much more likely to be lauded than creating a character from scratch with only the screenplay, director and your imagination to guide you. 

But anyway that's Oscar's list. Only two of them survive to make my personal ballot and I had to correct some category campaign problems too to put Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) where they belonged. Since DiCaprio's fans can be quite touchy I should note that he's solid, as ever, in The Revenant. He's locked up to win the Oscar finally but sadly the film just isn't asking very much of him, emotionally, beyond grief and anguish which he's been playing with minor variations for at a dozen years now. Sorry Oscar campaign narrative but tough physical working conditions and weird diets ≠ acting triumph. 

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Reader Comments (56)

If you need suggestions to fill up the top 12, give the last two slots to Cusack and Domhnall Gleeson.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

eeee!!! I love your personal ballot this year. (Like every year.) Oscar, Nicholas, and Jacob really should've gotten some traction this year. Who are your 11th and 12th slots for Best Actor?

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKaa

But Elba's probably even more blatantly A Lead in Beasts of No Nation than Isaac in Ex Machina. For all but the first 25 and last 5 minutes of the movie, Abraham Attah really only exists as a cypher tendril of Elba. So maybe bump him up to Lead and give Hardy the 12th slot.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Misspelled. Too much After Earth on the brain. Fix that, please.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

When I first read that I thought Oscar Isaac had gone full-frontal in something, but you said Oscar lineup not your lineup. It's a sad day.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

I thought Jacob was tremendous in Room, but I'm not sure if I would put him up for an award. From interviews that both the director and editor have given (the latter on this site) it appears that the performance was built almost on a line by line basis by the director, Larson and the editor. I don't doubt that he's got a tremendous screen presence but I'm not sure how much of it is his performance or just mimicry.

I know all performances are built to a certain extent by directors and editors making choices about which takes to use, but my understanding was that this was an extreme case

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIanO

Do you ever consider voiceover work for the Film Bitch Awards? Because Richard Kind as the voice of Bing Bong in Inside Out is just GOLD.

It's fun to see who from Spotlight makes different people's Supporting Actor Lineup. Everyone does fine work but for me the standouts were John Slattery (more ably suggesting his unseen non-work life and views than everyone else) and Jamey Sheridan (although perhaps he's more of the Cameo/Limited Performance category?). Actually, now that I think about it, I liked nearly all of the Cameo-type performances in Spotlight better than the main ensemble.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Alexander Skarsgard in Diary: Underrated all season long.
Co-sign on Tremblay and Isaac (although I'd probably have Isaac in lead).

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

IanO

I wasn't impress by his performance either. In fact I felt he was rather annoying for someone I'm rooting for to escape and have some form of a normal life outside of Room.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

"tough physical working conditions and weird diets ≠ acting triumph."

Hear, hear. It's so rare that this narrative of "this actor worked SO hard and it was so physically demanding" results in a performance that truly impresses me on an acting level. I vaguely remember the same narrative around Russell Crowe's performance in Gladiator.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Also, who were your Gold-Silver-Bronze for your ballot?

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKaa

Love your Supporting Actor lineup!!! I would have put Mark Rylance instead of Sly (who probably would have ended up in my dreaded #6 spot, mostly because as good as he is, I'm not as keen on the movie as most people around here are), but it's incredibly solid (Mad Max is a movie the warming up to, especially after seeing the original Mel Gibson trilogy and getting so much context on it, but Hoult was a standout for me from the get-go).

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I was hoping to see Emory Cohen in Supporting Actor!

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMojo

To be fair, "The Italian Stallion" was very tastefully imagined and shot.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy

KAA -- i don't announce those until i'm done with all the nominations. one thing at a time.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

You absolutely nailed it with Best Supporting Actor! Hoult is easy to overlook, too, because he only makes so much noise in such a loud film. We're five for five there.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDevin D

My Actor Ballot and I am not overly impressed with any of them really,no great love towards any they just had my praise and enjoyment more than others,not seen Room.

Nat I don't think you have mentioned your thoughts on Eddie this year/.

Best Actor
Caine - Youth
Dicaprio - The Revenant
Redmayne - The Danish Girl
Jordan - Creed
Cranston - Trumbo

Supporting Actor
Stallone - Creed
Cohen - Brooklyn
Rylance - Bride Of Spies
Keaton - Spotlight
Dano - Love & Mercy

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Really surprised to see Martin Starr make anyone's list, even as a runner-up. That guy was a total charisma void, a complete dud. Watch it again, he barely moves his face at all. And not in an "actor's choice," kind of way. Ugh, god he bugged me. There are so many actors who could've done great with that part and he was just...there.

@denny - interesting, I thought Sheridan was one of the weaker links in that cast. He just did not sell his character's about-face Very Important Decision in his final scene.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

IanO: What you heard about Tremblay's performance being built on a line-by-line basis is what Peter Bogdanovich did with Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon. And she won the Oscar in one of the first truly blatant cases of category fraud! According to TFE she was on camera for more than 93 minutes of the film and was nominated in the same category as the fantastic Madeline Kahn (on camera for 13 minutes). Bogdanovich recorded all the lines for O'Neal and then she repeated them.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I am happy because you nominated my favorite performance of the year, give or take Blanchett: Del Toro in Sicario. Tremendous, haunting work. I think he could even go lead in this Clarice-Hannibal dynamic. But it's a gray area.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

"If by some miracle Eddie Redmayne won it'd be the first leading actor win for a female character though not the first Oscar win for someone playing another gender -- that was Linda Hunt as a male photographer in The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)."

Then Swank, then Leto.

My Best Actor lineup: Abbott (James White), Courtenay (45 Years), Jordan (Creed), McKellen (Mr Holmes), Röhrig (Son of Saul)

My Supporting Actor lineup: Bale (The Big Short), Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road), Sarsgaard (Black Mass), Shannon (99 Homes)

Del Toro and Fassbender (x2) were in my top 10 in Leading.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

denny: He probably doesn't. I'd say Richard Kind's Bing Bong IS better than Del Toro's Alejandro (but I was actually pretty bored with Del Toro there. He's done guys very much like this too much and the thrill of "do that again" is almost entirely gone. Give me more out there stuff like Taneleer Tivan (not necessarily in comic book films), Benicio, PLEASE!) (And yes, the more I think about it, the more I think Pena's Luis (from Ant-Man) probably would be on my supporting actor ballot. It's amazing that Pena doesn't repeat himself as much as Del Toro does, even if Pena's norm leans toward the "Teddy Bear" end of the scale and Del Toro's norm leans toward the "Wolf" end of the scale.)

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

So happy to see Paul Dano here. He's an actor whom I've sometimes found hard to love in the past, but he completely ripped my heart out in "Love and Mercy".

I feel the inverse about Matt Damon -- an actor I've found so easy to fall for in the past whose mostly one-note bro character in "The Martian" left me cold and annoyed.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Funny enough, both of your fantasy ballots almost mirror mine (4/5 in both categories)

Actor: I took out Paul Dano for Geza Rohrig for "Son of Saul"
Supporting Actor: I took out Nicholas Hoult for Sam Elliott for "Grandma"

Great choices all around! Love reading your analyses and the performances you consider.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChris James

Actor:
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes
Matthias Schoenarts, Far from the Madding Crowd
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael B. Jordan, Creed

Supporting Actor:
Alexander Saarsgard, Diary of a Teenage Girl
Sam Elliott, Grandma
Bencio del Toro, Sicario
Liev Schrieber, Spotlight
Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Yes, yes, 1,000 times yes to Hoult and Isaac. And given that I liked Martin Starr's work it's nice to see him mentioned - same with Tom Courtenay whose part was, I think, as tricky as Rampling's.

These are strong lists and the only names I can think of to add to the discussion would be Emory Cohen for Brooklyn and Tye Sheridan for The Stanford Prison Experiment.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Agreed SanFran. The rescue scene left me cold to his character. 500 days on Mars with the constant threat of death, and all you can do is smile and tell Jessica Chastain her music selection sucks? You've held it together professionally to survive for 500 freakin' days, and that's the best you can give us emotionally? I wanted to see sloppy tears and grunts of ecstasy!

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Re the Emmy / EGOT for The Normal Heart, in the words of Whoopi 'it still counts' :)

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Can I plug Jason Segel in The End of the Tour for one of your semi-finalist spots? I'd give him my gold medal this year. It was such an affecting, low-key performance. I hope he does more non-comedic work in the future.

Other than that, I like your picks. This is actually a good year for lead actor performances (and I say that not having seen films like Son of Saul or 45 Years), but the best of them just aren't Oscar-friendly. It's amazing when a performance as good as Dano's (and in a biopic no less) can't get nominated, but I suppose category confusion played a part, and having Roadside distribute it didn't help.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

My Best Supporting Actor Choices this year seem to be really out there, but I'd go with:

Peter Sarsgaard - Black Mass
James Ransone - Tangerine
Michael Sheen - Far from the MAdding Crowd
Jeff Daniels - Steve Jobs
Antonio Banderas - Spongebob: A Sponge out of Water

My Best Actor choices are slightly more mainstream:

Ian McKellen - Mr. Holmes
Jacob Tremblay - Room
Johnny Depp - Black Mass
Matthias Schoenaerts - Far from the Msdding Crowd
Tobey Maguire - Pawn Sacrifice

As can be seen, I'm 0 for 10 with the Oscars this year

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

denny & volvagia -- i have considered adding a voice work category but i've never felt confident i see (or excuse me hear) enough worthy work to make a whole category worthwhile. And though I have had one motion capture performances as a nominee before (Andy Serkis in Two Towers) i've never heard a voice performance that impressed me as much as the usual acting (voice/body/face) so i doubt that's happening anytime soon.

it's one of the curiousities of running a blog that i've noticed so many people wanting voice work to be thought of on the same level as regular work that ALSO includes voice work as just one of its elements. Why have only one thing when you can have everything?

January 26, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat: Because, sometimes, a piece of work using only one thing has more quality acting, to a lot of people, than many of the pieces of work that use everything? (Think Poehler v. J Law.)

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

@ ken s: I was 1 for 10 with the Oscars (see above), but 1 for 5 with you in each category. Not only that, I would have all but Banderas in my top 10ish, and your other four Best Actor candidates would be in my top 15ish. ;-)

@ denny, Volvagia & Nat: I still think ScarJo deserved an OSCAR nomination for Her.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Nathaniel R

As far as voice-only performances go, I was very impressed this year with Ben Whishaw in Paddington

In 2014 I was really knocked out by Ben Kingsley in The Boxtrolls.

But I don't know if there's ever 5 each year that are so special that they could fill out a category

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

I'm surprised that with all the talk about category fraud this year, no one even brought up the argument that Del Toro was a lead. To me, he's clearly leading that movie by the end. What's the argument for putting him in supporting?

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Paul she's not better than Joaquin. Her is really his movie. And no one seem to notice because they wanted Scar's voice to happen.

I miss her being an Allen muse. Emma Stone is not the business and never was. Neither is that dead inside Stewart.

Thank God Brie Larson is winning this year. Hopefully everything is set in place for Chastain for next year's season. I refuse to care about any black actress competing for Best Actress unless it is Viola or S Epatha Merkerson.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Re Voice Work, I've been listening to a bunch of audiobooks and a new podcast called Playing on Air which airs new short plays performed for a "listening audience" (check it out, theater fans!). While voice work can make or break my enjoyment of a story, I kind of agree with Nathaniel that the whole package elevates an award-worthy performance.

That said, my vote for voice work would go to the cast of Anomalisa. And I wouldn't mind seeing the categories-Best Narration and Best Character Voice (like the Emmys) show up on AMPAS ballots.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPam

By the way, nice list Nathaniel.

Mine was really hard to narrow down, but ultimately decided on the following 10:

Actor
- Tom Courtenay, "45 Years"
- Benicio Del Toro, "Sicario"
- Michael Fassbender, "Macbeth"
- Michael B. Jordan, "Creed"
- Frederick Lau, "Victoria"

Supporting Actor
- Kyle Chandler, "Carol"
- Emory Cohen, "Brooklyn"
- Michael Keaton, "Spotlight"
- Reynaldo Pacheco, "Our Brand Is Crisis"
- Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

@ BVR re Del Toro: I did, over and over again (and see above).

@ /3rtful: I didn't say she was better than Joaquin (but she was better than at least one of the eventual Best Actress Oscar nominees). It's one of my favorite performances of his.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Great list! Mine:

Best Actor--Michael Caine in Youth (winner)

Tom Courtenay in 45 Years

Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Michael B. Jordan in Creed

Supporting Actor--Michael Keaton in Spotlight (winner)

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Tom Hardy in The Revenant

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

volvagia -- but even if you buy that argument (i don't because JLaw is terrific in JOY) it doesn't also stand to reason that the voice work that is very good will be better than ALL of the actors using their voice and face and body and to be in a list of 5 best you have to be practically better than everyone.

i cant see it ever happening but I'll try and keep an open mind. The most i've been with voice work in the past several years was definitely Scarlett Johansson's in HER.

January 26, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I can totally see including motion capture performances but not voice-only performances.

HOWEVER. Voice-only acting is still acting. The trick is to listen only and see if the actor is giving you as much or more than actors giving full flesh-and-blood performances. For example, Ellen DeGeneres's line reading of "I look at you, and I'm home" in Finding Nemo is one of the best line readings I've ever heard and doesn't need an accompanying visual to land. She would make my Supporting Actress nominees that year and might even win. I will concede that such a thing is exceedingly rare, though. I considered Poehler, Smith, and Kind for their work in Inside Out this year, but none of them would make my final five.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

The thing that separated ScarJo's work in Her from almost every other voice performance—be it JJL as a woman in Anomalisa, Ellen DeGeneres as a fish in Finding Nemo or Anthony Daniels as C-3PO—was that the entire performance was her voice. There was no CGI, no motion capture, no animation and no puppetry.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Speaking of ham, its disappointing to see Tom Hardy and Idris Elba and Liev Schreiber excluded due to Stallone's inclusion. Yikes. But to each his own. At least BAFTA and SAG got that one right, imo.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Bravo on the supporting men line-up. My favorite listing by far and puts the academy to shame

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Great picks. Mine:

Actor - Abbott, Franco (I Am Michael), Jordan, DiCaprio, Damon

Supporting - Isaac, Tremblay, Del Toro, Brolin (Sicario), Quinto (I Am Michael)

I should probably bump Tremblay up to lead though, and that would make room for Emory Cohen.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

@Suzanne - I completely agree with your choice of Jason Segel in The End of the Tour; I really wish that movie (and performance) got more traction. And I agree with you that he's got a lot more range than is expected from a primarily comedic actor.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

All good stuff. Agreed on a lot of it, really.

My personal ballot so far (I haven't seen 45 Years or Creed or Room) as submitted to the Film Experience ballot were...

Vincent Cassel, PARTISAN
Adam Driver, HUNGRY HEARTS
Michael Fassbender, STEVE JOBS
Matthias Schoenarts, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Guy Pearce, RESULTS

and for supporting (although I am kicking myself for not including Joe Mantagniello for MAGIC MIKE XXL, and Benicio del Toro got lost in the lead/support realm I think)

Louis Garrel, SAINT LAURENT
Oscar Isaac, EX MACHINA
Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES
Michael Shannon, 99 HOMES
Martin Starr, I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS.

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

My dream nom list:

* = win

Actor:
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) *
Michael B Jordan (Creed)
Tobey McGuire (Pawn Sacrifice)
Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul)

Supp Actor:
Emory Cohen (Brooklyn)
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)
Oscar Isaac (Ex-Machina) *
Alexander Saarsgard (Diary of a Teenage Girl)
Liev Schreiber (Pawn Sacrifice)

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

If I were going to award a voice performance from 2015, it'd be Phyllis Smith for Inside Out. End of story.

My ballot:
Actor-
1. Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
2. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
3. Geza Rohrig, Son of Saul
4. Michael B. Jordan, Creed
5. Andrew Garfield, 99 Homes

Supporting Actor-
1. Sam Elliott, Grandma
2. Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
3. Daniil Vorobyov, Eastern Boys
4. Matthias Schoenaerts, Far From the Madding Crowd
5. Emory Cohen, Brooklyn

January 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

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