Filling out your Office Oscar pool sheet? Here’s some more ideas…
The nominees are…
CHRISTIAN BALE in AMERICAN HUSTLE
FOR HIM: A well respected actor in Hollywood with an Oscar under his belt already for his previous teaming with director David O. Russell (for 2010’s “The Fighter”), he’s back again for his performance as a small time con man forced to collaborate with the FBI for a scam above his league in “American Hustle”. His weight gain and scrappy comb-over will also win points from those who love a physical transformation.
AGAINST HIM: It’s likelier that Bale has been swept in from the “American Hustle” craze which isn’t to take anything against the performance, but this was one of the most competitive races in years. His turn is very lightweight in comparison to other on this list or those who many feel were snubbed. The nomination is the reward.
BRUCE DERN in NEBRASKA
FOR HIM: A true veteran of the art form, Dern is back with a career capping performance 35 years after his first nomination for playing a psychologically disturbed Vietnam veteran in 1978’s “Coming Home”. Here, his turn as an elderly, grizzled man determined to claim a million dollar sweepstakes is played with such finely crafted subtlety and nuance that one might not even notice. Dern has many friends in the business and some may feel, at age 77, this is his year.
AGAINST HIM: It would seem that perhaps folks aren’t quite as passionate about the film overall. While Dern has won some traction from critics’ groups, “Nebraska” has been coming back empty handed from most of its bids in the major awards precursors. He was even bested by Leonardo DiCaprio at the Golden Globes which could indicate a loss of steam.
LEONARDO DiCAPRIO in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
FOR HIM: Many consider him one of the finest actors of his generation. He has consistently put in solid work over the last decade and some are surprised to learn that he has yet to win an Oscar. Here, for his debauchery-laden turn as real life Wall Street fraudster Jordan Belfort, he also teams up for the fifth time with director Martin Scorsese. It’s a well-liked performance even from those who weren’t as crazy about the film itself. It could have been high schtick and camp from a lesser actor. He also won the Golden Globe (Mus/Com) for effort. Some may think it’s his time.
AGAINST HIM: As stated, there have been many folks who have been turned off by his film’s raunchy and over the top content. It’s a solid performance, but some question whether it’s truly one of his best. He faces a stiff competition this year.
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR in 12 YEARS A SLAVE
FOR HIM: As Solomon Northup the real life free man who was sold into slavery, British born actor Ejiofor, dives into this role with a fierce, lived in believability that left him on people’s minds well after the credits rolled. He’s a respected actor who has been putting in good work for over a decade. With director Steve McQueen’s riveting new film, Ejiofor has found an indelible role that has many admirers. He won a good helping of critics’ prizes.
AGAINST HIM: However, he hasn’t been winning any of the “big ones”. The BFCA, Golden Globes, and SAG passed him up. A stiff competition may have him sitting out this year. “12 Years a Slave” also needs to pick up some major heat right now if this is to happen.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
FOR HIM: As Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician who is diagnosed HIV-positive, then turned medicinal activist, McConaughey has found a breakthrough role in which he has graduated from the class of poorly reviewed romantic comedy matinee idol to a solid actor excelling in his craft. Paired with acclaimed performances within the past couple years in “Magic Mike”, “Bernie”, “Killer Joe”, and this year’s “Mud”, McConaughey is now a serious threat for the prize. Winning big prizes from BFCA, Golden Globes, and SAG, he’s sitting comfortably in the top spot, so it would seem.
AGAINST HIM: Though he’s been working in the business for at least 20 years, some might feel that he still has dues to pay as a “serious” actors before he’s awarded the industry’s highest honor. Also, in a tight, tight race, there’s still room for another contender to slip through the cracks. Some may think awarding Jared Leto may be enough for the film.
THE LOWDOWN: By statistics alone, it would seem that Matthew McConaughey is about to be able to add ‘Academy Award Winner’ before his name in upcoming film trailers and news headlines. However, in a race this tight with worthy contenders breathing down his neck, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see an upset win by either Leonardo DiCaprio or Bruce Dern. DiCaprio’s 11th hour momentum for “The Wolf of Wall Street” seem the likeliest for a spoiler. Ejiofor and Bale are probably just sitting pretty at this point.
MY PERSONAL PICK: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
Let me start by saying that my true, personal pick WASN’T NOMINATED! Which is bullshit and which is also Robert Redford for his tour-de-force performance in the riveting survival drama “All is Lost”. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that the film didn’t campaign hard enough or whether Hollywood has some beef with Redford as an actor. But at 77, Redford delivered a soulful, commanding performance more impressive than almost any action hero turn. To me, this is one of Oscar’s biggest mistakes. This lineup would have been perfect if it had included Redford, and left out DiCaprio. I loved Leo in the film, but I thought Christian Bale was more subversively effective for a spot. And Ejiofor, Dern, and McConaughey belong here. Of those nominated, McConaughey should take the cake.
It’s interesting to note the snub of Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips”. Hanks delivered a solid performance. However, the Oscar-worthy stuff really only came in the last 15 minutes of the movie which might have put other contenders over the edge. Also, however corny the movie was, Forest Whitaker did good work in “Lee Daniel’s The Butler”. But, you’ve got only five slots, so whatcha gonna do?