The Best Actor race started early this year, in Cannes, when Timothy Spall won Best Actor for bringing the painter J.M.W. Turner to life in Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. Also at Cannes was Steve Carell bringing John DuPont to life. What a brilliant performance by Carell in Foxcatcher. He had to be one of the five. Later came Michael Keaton in Birdman, a rumored-to-be-great performance as a former superhero trying for respectability in bringing a Raymond Carver short story to life. That was it. The race was over. Michael Keaton had it in the bag. Then along came Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game at Telluride — his performance seemed unbeatable. Now we had mostly a two-man race with Timothy Spall still a major contender. Next out of the gate came Eddie Redmayne at Toronto bringing Stephen Hawking to life. Well, that’s it. Race over. Redmayne’s charming portrayal seemed like it could Daniel Day-Lewis its way to the top spot. But wait no, Michael Keaton. But wait no, Benedict Cumberbatch. But wait no! The AFI fest delivered David Oyelowo bring Martin Luther King, Jr. to life in an exceptional, breathtaking performance. Now it seemed like Oyelowo couldn’t lose. But wait, Michael Keaton, and wait, Benedict Cumberbatch, but wait, Eddie Redmayne!
That brings us to the eve before the critics awards start rolling in. Word is that Jack O’Connell is pretty great in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and he too could be a spoiler. Pundits keep screaming about category fraud with Carell, saying he should be in the supporting actor race or seeing his slot as vulnerable. Without anything to back it up so far, it seems certain that three names are guaranteed. The order shifts almost daily.
1. Michael Keaton, Birdman
2. Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything
3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
4. David Oyelowo, Selma
And then there’s that tricky 5th slot which is, I think, a toss-up between Carell, Spall and perhaps O’Connell. But it’s a very tight race — probably the most heated and anyone can win. Any of the five. They will all be first time nominees. They all appear to be starring in a Best Picture contender. Probably the hotter the film overall, the better the actor’s chances.
Other names floating around because they were just so great include Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, Bradley Cooper – astounding in American Sniper.
Contrast that with the Best Actress race where there is one strong contender right now that is even in a potential Best Picture nominee and that’s Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl – and believe me, many pundits seem to think even Gone Girl is out. Felicity Jones in Theory of Everything also has a good chance but—
Take, for example, Kris Tapley’s predicted films:
- “The Imitation Game”
- “Mr. Turner”
- “The Theory of Everything”
Gone Girl is a maybe for Best Picture, Theory is being predicted but it is by no means a done deal for Best Picture. The other two outside choices would be Wild and The Homesman. That, my friends, is a sorry ass state of affairs. Felicity Jones’ inclusion would spare this contender list the shame of being the first year since 2005 that no lead actress contenders had corresponding Best Pic nods.
These films, all of them, are really only about men – great men, true enough, but only men. I am probably the only person writing about the Oscars who gives a damn about that but there it is.
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