Best Actor – Oscars 2014

academy-awards-actorI haven’t written in a while. But 2014 is all new. January, however, is a lost month since I’ll be away most of it. Therefore, I have been racing to see films in theaters in anticipation of the Oscar Nominations (January 16).

For the last bunch of years, I have successfully seen all the nominees for the big 8 awards before Oscar night. I have usually been nearly done by the nomination announcement because of good anticipation and because most of the big award nominees come from a cluster of films.

This year, if you can see just 15 films, you’ll cover nearly all of the contenders for the “big” (picture, director, 4 actors, 2 screenwriting) awards. There is always the outlier, but most of these awards come from a cluster of films.

The best picture nominees will almost certainly come from this group (order from Gold Derby)

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Gravity
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Nebraska
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Her
  • The Butler
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Philomena
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Fruitvale Station
  • August: Osage County

Seeing these 15 will also help take care of most acting awards. In Best Actor, the only legitimate exception is Robert Redford in All Is Lost. (To be totally honest, I must mention also, Idris Elba in Mandela, but that’s not really going to happen – the film has no traction)

For Best Actress, the actual nominees all come from these films. This is unusual as Best Actress usually pulls from a not otherwise nominated film (think Meryl Street in The Iron Lady). But if you want to see all touted candidates, you’d also need to see Blue Is the Warmest Color, Short Term 12, and Enough Said. If you want to use the top candidates at GoldDerby as a benchmark, you’d also need Labor Day, The Past, and Before Midnight, but that’s never never going to happen. No chance.

Supporting actors would need 4 more films for legit contenders (Rush, Spring Breakers, 42, Enough Said). Supporting Actress, this year, very unusually, is covered in the 15 above.

This post is about the Best Actors. Who is going to be nominated and who do I think were the best performances.

Of the likely nominees, 2 are no doubters in my mind of deserving.

UnknownChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave – Magnificent. No question on nomination and my list. He is the breakout lead actor of the year. (He has never previously been nominated for an Oscar)

1383435141832.cachedMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club – I thought he was incredible.  Oscar loves mainstream actors who have gone “different” – weight change, disease, death, mental illness, disabilities, etc.. He will not be nominated for his excellent supporting performance in Mud. (He has never previously been nominated for an Oscar)

That’s where I think the Academy and I agree.

Who will make up the other 3 nominees? On January 16, I think it will be:

Captain-PhillipsTom Hanks, Captain Phillips – Regardless of the controversy over the film’s veracity, Hanks carried the film and captivated. His final breakdown at the end cinched him a nomination. He might be nominated for best supporting actor for Saving Mr. Banks too, but I don’t think instead. (Hanks has won back-to-back Oscars and has 3 other nominations – none since 2001!)

all-is-lost-robert-redfordRobert Redford, All Is Lost – How can they pass on the septuagenarian’s 1-man show of survival. He is beloved in Hollywood. In this solo role he went from beatific to vulnerable. Unlike Sandra Bullock in Gravity, his silent stoic determinism did not blow me away. The Academy will want to nominate him (but not give him the prize) as a final lifetime achievement award. Note: he has never won an Oscar for acting and was only nominated for acting for The Sting. He won for Best Director (Ordinary People) and has a Lifetime Achievement Oscar too.

Unknown-1Bruce Dern, Nebraska – Again, Hollywood loves a veteran actor doing later-in-life master performance. Dern playing someone so vulnerable, it is like catnip to the Academy. He has been nominated once (Coming Home). I really liked his performance, but not enough to put it in my top.

Those are my predictions (right now) for the Academy Top 5: Ejiofor, McConaughey, Hanks, Redford, and Dern.

Who then would I add as my other 3?

maxresdefaultNot Forest Whitaker, The Butler. The film was too sappy and felt TV movie like at many points. (1 previous win)

1373551621_michael-b-jordan-fruitvale-review-350Not Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station. Wonderful film. Wonderful performance. But not enough of a breakout to make my Oscars. (never nominated)

oscar_article_story_mainNot Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis. He made me believe he was an annoying yet endearing folk singer. But three other performance were better. (never nominated)

The three roles I wish would get nominated for Best Actor are:

new-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-leonardo-dicaprio-is-the-wealthiest-stockbroker-in-the-worldLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street – Whatever you thought of the movie itself, which I really liked, he was stupendous. The Academy is not a big fan of DiCaprio. He has been nominated 3 times, but didn’t even get one for his  performance in the Titanic when every single person in the film got a nomination.  He should get one for this. You should HATE DiCaprio at every moment in this film and yet, you are rooting for him.

christian-bale-the-cast-of-american-hustle_3670544Christian Bale, American Hustle – Bale’s time as Batman made me forget how amazing an actor he is – American Psycho, The Machinist, The Prestige to a lesser extent. He was nominated only once – The Fighter – and won (supporting). He will not be nominated this time. He also won’t be nominated for Out of the Furnace, likewise released this year. (I haven’t seen it). In Hustle, his hair, his fat, his accent all worked with his performance to create an amazing character. And who knew he could do Jewish?

Film NYFF Spike JonzeJoaquin Phoenix, Her – He is beloved by the Academy with 3 past nominations. But Her is too weird for the Oscars. And he acts opposite a disembodied voice, which will hurt his chances. I think Her is likely for Picture and Screenplay nominations, but that’s it. Phoenix plays his character with such mastery. You understand him, you pain for him, you pity him, you are angry at him – he is so very, very human in a role opposite a more sympathetic computer voice. Only Daniel Day-Lewis is a better working male actor today. (Sorry Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo – you both slipped by shoddy roles and also by each playing Bruce Banner).

So my Best Actor thought:


  • Dern, Nebraska
  • Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  • Hanks, Captain Phillips
  • McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
  • Redford, All is Lost


  • Bale, American Hustle
  • DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  • McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
  • Phoenix, Her

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