I posted about this a few days back but it’s worth diving into again since the debates have begun to bubble up on social media. Can any of the four acting slots be upset? And if so, which? My first thought is no. They are locked down as any have been in recent years. True, ballots have yet to go out but the consensus appears to be set.
Best Picture is, however, absolutely wide open. Voters will know this going in. Some might try to game the system, knowing how the preferential ballot works but most will simply rank them in order of preference. It seems to be down to three: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. All three have an equal shot, with Gravity having the edge with the all-important DGA win. But with a preferential ballot and last year’s decision to render the necessity for a Best Director nomination obsolete it’s anyone’s game. Captain Phillips, Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska – even Her all have a shot. But in all likelihood we’re looking at three frontrunners. All eyes turn to the BAFTA to edge us closer to a better guess.
A photo was released and made the rounds on Twitter of Leonardo DiCaprio’s engraved Oscar plaque. Since ballots haven’t even been sent out yet there is no possible way it could have been a spoiler but it was circulated as news nonetheless and DiCaprio caught the buzz, at least for today. That buzz could be multiplied when Leo wins the BAFTA, as it’s the one place McConaughey was not nominated. Will that be enough to push him through to an Oscar win? It’s hard to say. Both actors are overdue by this point, having put in career best performances over and over again. Both give two of the best performances of the year and both are in Best Picture nominees. The love of Wolf of Wall Street is spilling over into the target demographic and it feels like the movie has to win something somewhere. Ironically, the two places it might win are the two places Dallas Buyers Club has locked up: Actor and Supporting Actor.
Matthew McConaughey has had the kind of year an actor dreams about. Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, Wolf of Wall Street and now, True Detective on HBO. Dazzling work from top to bottom. His small but pivotal role in Wolf of Wall Street gave the film its theme song. He lost 46 pounds for the role and disappeared into it. Add to that the difficulty the production had getting off the ground – there was no money, they couldn’t even afford a lighting crew. It only got made because of McConaughey. It is also Focus Features’ swan song, the final departing kiss of James Schamus who was responsible for bringing dozens of films into the Oscar race, but most notably, films with LGBT themes. No other movie studio has been responsible for breaking stereotypes and putting films about gay characters into mainstream Hollywood – like Milk, like The Kids Are All Right. The film is not going home empty handed, and it most likely isn’t walking away with a single win for Jared Leto.
On the other hand, there is that delicious, ferocious performance by DiCaprio in his fifth collaboration with Martin Scorsese. The Oscars this year have the theme of heroes. Jordan Belfort is anything but. That could work against him since Ron Woodruff is the very definition of a hero. But just because the theme is heroes doesn’t mean that’s how voters are going to vote. While I really feel that the momentum is with all four of the acting categories there is definite heat on DiCaprio heading into final ballot voting. The funny thing about Leonardo DiCaprio and the internet is the abundance of memes dedicated to Leo and his getting an Oscar. The internet would explode if he won. Check out some Leo memes at the end of this post.
Cate Blanchett has been in the news in an unfortunate way, as one of the pieces of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of Woody Allen’s shoe. The question isn’t whether he’s guilty or not, or whether he’s the manipulator and brainwasher or Mia Farrow is — I mostly agree with this point of view – but whether anyone is going to punish Cate Blanchett for it. They will not. Mark Harris’ latest Grantland column about the ugliness of Oscar season — the Age of Outrage meeting Oscar season but lest we forget what happened to Zero Dark Thirty last year, and Lincoln for that matter. To me, that was ugliness during Oscar season. This Woody thing could have broken at any time and has nothing to do with Oscar season other than the fact that Cate Blanchett is likely to win. But unlike McConaughey and DiCaprio, there isn’t any actress specifically nipping at Blanchett’s heels. Rather, three of the other contenders threaten to steal her spot but there is not one single one as powerful as DiCaprio’s potential rise in the 11th hour. There is an argument to be made for Amy Adams in American Hustle, for Judi Dench in Philomena, for Sandra Bullock in Gravity. The only one who seems safe from a win is Meryl Streep for August: Osage County.
The Woody Allen scandal isn’t likely to affect Blanchett because this is debate is starting to fall along gender lines. You can’t find many men who will take a side against Woody. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where it feels like we’re on the verge of a Million Man March on Washington where all of the men will be wearing “The Heart Wants What it Wants” t-shirts. The Academy is dominated by men who have given Woody Allen a total of 18 Oscar nominations and 3 wins. He’s been winning Oscars since the Soon-Yi scandal and now that the whole affair has been left behind, now that Woody Allen and Soon-Yi are a happy couple, the only people who still seem to be suffering are those Woody Allen left in his wake. To me, there is no debate here. What Woody Allen did is separate from the artist who creates sometimes magnificent films. While the story might prevent Allen himself from winning an Oscar, it certainly isn’t going to harm Blanchett. Her performance is brilliant and unassailable.
As far as Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o go, they are just too locked in for any surprises I do believe. If there is a shocker to be had I would go with Jonah Hill and June Squibb.