Oscar Predictions 2014: Actor

The Best Actor field this year is a bit different than normal. Christian Bale is the only nominee to have won an Oscar, and that was in the Best Supporting Actor category. More over, two of the nominees (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey) have never received a nomination before. It’s not that these guys are newcomers. They’ve been acting for years, some of them in respected and popular films. The Academy is just finally getting around to giving them some recognition.

Still, each nomination comes with a social issue attached to it. Whether it be the greed of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, the plight of the elderly in Nebraska, slavery and white guilt in 12 Years a Slave, or good old fashioned AIDS baiting for the Academy voters in Dallas Buyers Club, these nominations could be seen as a nod to the issue rather than the actor. (This could explain why Robert Redford and Tom Hanks were shut out of the contest this year: no social issues with lost yachters and captains who thwart Somali pirate attacks.)

No matter what, someone will be winning his first Best Actor Oscar.

Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actor along with my predicted winner in red

Christian Bale, American Hustle

Christian Bale in American Hustle

Why He Was Nominated

Bale has never been one to shy away from changing his physical look to play a role. If you remember The Machinist, he went in the opposite direction from what he did for American Hustle. So it’s not that he made himself look different. It’s that he became a totally different person for the role. Sure, he was doing a bit of a Robert De Niro impression, but anyone watching American Hustle had to forcibly remind himself or herself that this is the guy who played Batman just over a year before. Bale changed for this role, and he was impressive in doing so. It also helped that all four stars of the film got a nomination, so the odds were in his favor on this one.

Why He Might Win

Like Jennifer Lawrence, Bale’s performance in American Hustle was memorable not just because he became a different person, but because it was over the top and hilarious. He’s one of the most memorable things about that movie, in a sea of memorable things. With a movie that boasts this much acting power, Bale has a chance to catch the eye of the Academy voters. It also doesn’t hurt that he does a fantastic job in the role and deserves recognition for it.

Why He Might Not Win

Even though Bale is the only Oscar winner in this field, that’s not giving him much of an edge on his fellow nominees. His performance in American Hustle, while memorable and fantastic, can be dismissed as a caricature rather than an true acting performance. This is part of the reason that comedies don’t fare well in the Best Actor and Best Actress category. They’re not seen as great feats of acting but rather as great feats of entertainment.

dashes

Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Bruce Dern in Nebraska

Why He Was Nominated

My personal theory is that most people thought Bruce Dern was dead when this movie came out. His presence in the film was so surprising that he got the nomination by default. I kid, of course, but there always seems to be room for “the old guy” in the Oscar nominations. It didn’t go to Robert Redford, so it went to the really old guy, which was Bruce Dern giving a stand-out performance that few expected.

Why He Might Win

Again, he’s old. That holds a lot of sway with Academy voters. It also doesn’t hurt that Dern most likely doesn’t have very many roles left in him. Dern did a fine job playing a somewhat batty old man who believes he can walk to Nebraska to collect a promised prize, and it touched a lot of viewers. This could be Bruce Dern’s year if he can get the legacy vote.

Why He Might Not Win

Let’s be honest… there’s not tons of acting going on with Dern in this film. There’s a lot of staring off into space, and a lot of noises being made by the character when he can’t hear things. The Oscar clip will be pretty understated, which was much of his performance. Plus, he got upstaged at times by Will Forte and definitely June Squibb. Sure, Dern is old enough to “deserve” the Oscar, but it’s not like the Academy has been busting their ass trying to give him one for decades.

dashes

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Why He Was Nominated

In spite of the film being held from some critics groups for consideration as it was furiously finished for a December release date, The Wolf of Wall Street still had the stones to garner plenty of nominations. Headlining these is Leonardo DiCaprio, who commanded the film as Jordan Belfort. It’s a great performance, filled with emotion, arrogance, dysfunction, and humor. Even with the strong ensemble around him, DiCaprio stood out. Once again, as Martin Scorsese’s current go-to lead actor, DiCaprio has given one of the best performances of the year.

Why He Might Win

Even though there are plenty of other deep and complex performances in film last year, few were as diverse as the one DiCaprio gave. He played the douchebag perfectly, but he was also the douchebag you kind of liked. That’s not an easy task to accomplish. And let’s not forget the pretty incredible moments of comedy in the film. DiCaprio also won the Golden Globe, which gives him an edge on the odds to win the Oscar.

Why He Might Not Win

That Golden Globe I just mentioned? Yeah, that was in the Comedy or Musical category, which is actually less of a predictor for the Oscars than the Dramatic category. (More on that later.) Also, even though DiCaprio has been around for decades, he’s got a lot of years of acting ahead of him, so the clock isn’t running out for the Academy to give him an award. Finally, we must remember that the Academy is filled with old farts, many of whom were (or would be, if they actually bothered to see all the films they vote on) offended by the content of The Wolf of Wall Street. If DiCaprio doesn’t win, his director buddy Martin Scorsese can console him by telling him stories of what it’s like to not win the Oscar until you’re in your 60s.

dashes

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Why He Was Nominated

Back in September, it appeared that 12 Years a Slave was going to be the award season juggernaut. While that didn’t necessarily pan out that way, several key performances have continued to rise up for the film, mainly Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o‎. These were the two stars that held the film together and gave it its heart. Ejiofor’s performance was heartbreaking and subtle, which kept his name in the hat for award season.

Why He Might Win

Yes, Chiwetel Ejiofor did a fantastic job acting in 12 Years a Slave. However, we can’t discount the more important thing to the egos of the Academy voters: white guilt. While other films have cropped up to steal award wins from 12 Years a Slave over the past few months, the Academy still wants to assuage said guilt by giving out golden statuettes. Ejiofor’s performance may not top all other four nominees, but the guilt factor can.

Why He Might Not Win

It’s not just that the voting members of the Academy are scared off by names they can’t spell or pronounce on the ballot. Ejiofor has yet to win a high profile award for this performance. He’s got dozens of awards under his belt with this movie, but many of those are from smaller or regional organizations. The highest profile awards like the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Movie Awards, or the SAG Awards went to someone else.

dashes

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Why He Was Nominated

McConaughey’s role of Ron Woodroof is a perfect storm of award season buzz. First, it’s a role that demands a physical change from its actor. Second, it’s tied to a huge social issue. Third, the actor does an outstanding performance in the film. The only way this would not have been nominated is if it was such a small movie that flew under the Academy’s radar. However, with major studio support and a well-known name (who is actually well known for other types of roles), there was no way that McConaughey wasn’t going to get nominated.

Why He Might Win

I hate to marginalize the excellent acting performance that McConaughey gave in this role, but the strongest thing going for him is the fact that this movie has a focus on AIDS. That’s what helped Tom Hanks win for Philadelphia when it’s far from his best work. It also helps that Dallas Buyers Club offered a different look at an issue tied to the disease without retreading other films. It’s great that McConaughey transformed himself to play the role, but if he had to lose weight to play a guy suffering from bulimia, he’d have no chance of winning. Also, remember that Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama? He won that. Boom!

Why He Might Not Win

To be honest, it’s a strong field, and anything can happen. McConaughey’s biggest competition will be DiCaprio because he’s the one that many people want to win. However, the Vegas odds strongly favor McConaughey, and that’s who I’m putting my money on. Still, there can be fatigue over the AIDS angle, which may not necessarily win awards automatically any more. Also, if Academy voters were to vote with their social issue conscience, McConaughey could lose to Ejiofor in the long run.

dashes

Who Should Win?: Leonardo DiCaprio

When it comes to a performer like DiCaprio, I think a lot of people take him for granted. He’s been in blockbusters, and he’s been in art house films. He’s been knocking around in Hollywood since the 80s, but he’s still got many years to go (if he doesn’t do something dangerous, or stupid, or both). His performance in The Wolf of Wall Street is nothing short of amazing, delivering a seamless mix of drama and comedy. I don’t think he should win the award because he hasn’t won one yet, or because it’s “his time.” I want him to win this award because he deserves it with this performance. Imagine anyone else in that movie, and it would fall apart.

dashes

Oscar 2014


ARTICLE TAGS
Like this article? Join thousands of your fellow movie lovers who subscribe to The Weekly Edition from Film School Rejects. Our best articles, every week, right in your inbox!
  %
%  
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
SXSW 2014
Game of Thrones reviews
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3