Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

So, I promise this blog will focus on other subjects come March when the Oscars are over, but for now, it's still Oscar time and I am in an Oscar frenzy, which means it's time to start with the predictions of who will win the coveted Academy Award. It's almost a month before the Oscars, so things are still subject to change, but despite the wide array of great films this year, things are starting to settle in and the frontrunners in the major awards have already become fairly clear.

The Best Actor in a Leading Role category was one of the most contentious in years-- with multiple deserving performances losing out on the nomination. Here's my prediction for who will ultimately win the competitive prize.

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld—American Hustle
Bruce Dern as Woody Grant—Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort—The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup—12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof—Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey—Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey has had one of the most interesting film careers in a while. If you had asked anyone a few years ago if McConaughey would ever win an Oscar, they would have laughed at you. And even if I'm wrong and McConaughey does not win this year, it's looking increasingly likely that he will win this award at some point. Starting just two years ago, McConaughey stopped playing shirtless hunks and began taking on increasingly challenging roles, delivering acclaimed performances in films such as Bernie, Mud, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, and The Paper Boy. All of those films are from 2011 and 2012. And 2013 was a great year for him too-- as he's also in The Wolf of Wall Street. He made an effort to completely rebrand himself and should be commended for it.

As the insanely competitive field of potential Best Actor nominees was narrowed down, McConaughey became a surprising lock for a nomination. But, going into the Golden Globe Awards, Chiwetel Ejiofor was seen as the frontrunner, and so McConaughey's win at that ceremony was not necessarily a shock, but it was a bit of a surprise. However, since the Golden Globes, McConaughey has won several other prestigious awards, such as the Critic's Choice Award and the SAG Award. At this point, the category seems all wrapped up in McConaughey's favor-- surprising considering how up-in-the-air the nominees were.

If we go by precedent, DiCaprio has been doing pretty well in the awards ceremonies, but he's really only winning the awards that McConaughey is not eligible for (for example, awards that divide the acting performances into Comedy and Drama categories). He seems like the most likely upset at this point. But it would be an upset. Bet on McConaughey.

Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor—12 Years a Slave

McConaughey is very good in Dallas Buyers Club and I think he's proven himself to be a really fantastic actor. But as great as he is, I think the strongest performance of the nominees belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor is a fantastic actor who has been delivering reliable performances for years and I'm thrilled that this film has finally given him the recognition he deserves. Ultimately, I think that as good as McConaughey is in Buyers, he's just not as strong as Ejiofor. At all. McConaughey will win because it's seen as "his time." He's an "it" actor right now. Hopefully the success of 12 Years a Slave will open the door for Ejiofor to have more high-profile  roles and he'll be able to win the Oscar another year.

Should Have Been Nominated: Oscar Isaac—Inside Llewyn Davis

There were many acclaimed performances which failed to score nominations, and there are many that I definitely think were deserving. Everyone talks about Tom Hanks being snubbed for Captain Phillips, and it's easy to see why. It's some of his best work in years, and after he gave not one, but TWO great performances this year and failed to score a nomination for either, it is sad that he is unrecognized. But along with Hanks, I think that a case could also be made for buzzed-about performances like Forest Whitaker in The Butler and Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. These are great performances, certainly worthy of an Oscar.

But, for me, the name that's feels the most left out is Oscar Isaac, the star of Inside Llewyn Davis. A relative unknown who simply couldn't compete with the big names nominated in this category (I firmly believe that if Isaac had more name recognition he'd have been nominated no problem), Isaac gave a subtle and intriguing performance which completely sustained a film where not much really happened. He made the character sympathetic while making him unlikable, intriguing while making him understated, and powerful in both his vocal performances and in his silence. In a year of great leading roles for actors, Isaac stood out. 

What are your thoughts? Who will/should win? And which performance should have been recognized? Do you agree with me? Do you think I'm way off the mark? How does McConaughey's weight loss for his role compare to Christian Bale's weight gain for his role? Let me know in the comments! 

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