We are closing in on the end of this series of updates, but the buzz has been flying so fast and furious that I can barely keep up with it. Today we will be covering the Lead Acting awards, and the stories between the two categories could not be more dissimilar this year. You'll see what I mean...
This category is shaping up to be very competitive this year with a long crowded list of viable contenders that just seems to swell further with each film that debuts or announces a last minute entry into this year's race. Two nominations seem pretty solidly set. Another is largely believed to be set in stone, but it is from a film no one has seen yet, so I still consider it a pretty big question mark. The final two slots could go to any of a dozen worthy (or presumed worthy in all likelihood, sight unseen) performances, which leaves a LOT of wiggle room for prognosticators like me. The buzz at present is led by these gentlemen...(as always, numbers in parenthesis indicate June ranking)
1.(1) Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
2.(3) John Hawkes - The Sessions
3. Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
4.(2) Bill Murray - Hyde Park On Hudson
5.(5) Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables
6.(4) Phillip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
7.(10) Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
8. Denzel Washington - Flight
9.(7) Clint Eastwood - Trouble With the Curve
10.(6) Jamie Foxx - Django Unchained
Leaving the Rankings: Brad Pitt - Killing Them Softly, Ryan Gosling - Place Beyond the Pines
I'm leaning more this way, though...
1. Joaquin Phoenix - The Master...Backed by the Weinsteins, won Best Actor at Venice, and giving what many critics have already called the performance of a lifetime...this nomination is in the bag. Being a two time nominee with no win under his belt can only help.
2. John Hawkes - The Sessions...Universally praised on the festival circuit, Mr. Hawkes can likely expect to receive his second nomination this year.
3. Bradley Cooper - Harvey Weinstein will likely be pushing Phoenix for the win here, but that doesn't mean that he won't want a second horse in the race. Critics in Toronto were almost unanimous in the opinion that this film is Cooper's best work yet. Demonstrating growth as an artist is an excellent way to secure your first nomination.
4. Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables...I simply cannot bet against my favorite musical of all time succeeding, and the whole thing hinges on this role, played by a respected and well liked actor who has never been nominated before...singing live.
5. Matt Damon - Promised Land...I had a very hard time deciding who to put in this slot, but Oscar loves a good Oscar story and the symmetry of the dual writing and acting credits to his double nominations for Good Will Hunting may be too much of a parallel for the Academy to pass up. Mr. Damon has yet to win (in the acting categories), although this would be his third nomination.
6. Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln...I know that the credentials seem amazing, and the likeness is incredible, but though DDL has been nominated four times (and won twice!), he doesn't get in EVERY time he appears in a film...only about forty per cent. Of course, he could easily make the final five, but for now, I'm keeping him on the rim.
7. Anthony Hopkins - Hitchcock...This film's eligibility is still such a new reality, that it remains a total question mark. If its a hit, it could easily be the vehicle by which this veteran former winner secures his fifth Academy Award nomination.
8. Denzel Washington - Flight...Denzel is usually great even in mediocre films, and it does look like he will get a lot of scenery to chew, but with two wins and three more nominations already under his belt at a relatively young age, might the Academy decide to wait to give him a sixth nod?
9. Jamie Foxx - Django Unchained...I have little doubt that this will be one of my favorite performances of the year, but with two other horses in the Best Actor race, will the Weinsteins divide their resources to push through a third?
10. Michael Shannon - The Iceman...Although Shannon's work here has been lauded heartily on the Festival circuit, the film itself has been less favorably reviewed and is going to receive and NC-17 rating. If they failed to give him his second nod last year for Take Shelter (my favorite leading male performance of 2011), which was odd but far less controversial, I have my doubts that the AMPAS will choose to bestow it for this, much as I might well feel they should.
But that is hardly the width and breadth of true possibilities this year: Richard Gere (Arbitrage), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Jean Louis Trintignant (Amour), Jake Gyllenhall (End of Watch), Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), and, yes, Bill Murray (Hyde Park On Hudson) are all still truly feasible possibilities at this point.
By contrast, the Best Actress race this year seems to be struggling to come up with contenders. Many of the ladies perceived to be major threats early on in the year have had their films delayed to next year (Sandra Bullock, Carey Mulligan), received mixed reviews, had campaigns built as Supporting Actress contenders, or turned out to have much less prominent roles than once suspected. Studios, sensing the vacuum, are scrambling to provide impressive last minute possibilities, but the buzz currently runs like this...
1.(1) Keira Knightley - Anna Karenina
2.(7) Quvenzhane Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
3.(5) Marion Cotillard - Rust and Bone
4. Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
5.(2) Helen Hunt - The Sessions
6.(3) Laura Linney - Hyde Park On Hudson
7.(4) Viola Davis - Won't Back Down
8.(10) Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
9. Naomi Watts - The Impossible
10.(8) Merryl Streep - Hope Springs
Leaving the Rankings: Carey Mulligan - The Great Gatsby, Mia Wasikowska
Several things have happened to torpedo the chances of several of the actresses on this list. Laura Linney's part in "Hyde" was damned by faint praise, apparently not providing the actress with substantial enough opportunity to demonstrate her considerable talents. Won't Back Down looks schmaltzier the more we see of it, but even though this could be overcome, word is that Davis may not be the main character (although that didn't stop her campaign last year). Word is that Helen Hunt IS going to be actively campaigned, but in Supporting Actress (where she could actually find the road more difficult, but, oh well). Even Knightley, who had been considered the front runner up until "Anna" debuted, seems to be drawing reservedly positive reviews, and her lead in buzz is slipping rapidly. Bearing these (and other) things in mind, I struggled to put together this list. Numbers one through three I feel pretty confident about, especially one and two. After that, it's hard to say right now.
1. Quvenzhane Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild...Although it seems less likely that she'll win than it did a couple of months ago, I have to believe that if the Academy gives this film anything (and surely it will), it will be a nomination for the young Ms. Wallis. First, its a great story: she becomes the youngest Best Actress nominee ever. She's a brand new face; this is her first film. Aside from all that, the fact is that she gives one of the most nuanced, powerful, believable, and...elemental...seriously...performances that I've seen in a long time. I've never seen a child actor carry a film this impressively. Ever.
2. Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook...Ms. Lawrence is only in the number two slot because "Silver" has yet to open. Word from the festival circuit has been universally exuberant even among the few naysayers who were more reserved about the film as a whole. With a nomination already under her belt for Winter's Bone (if you haven't seen it, shame on you), and the sudden fame provided by her impressive work in The Hunger Games earlier this year, many feel that she might be the one to win it this year.
3. Marion Cotillard - Rust and Bone...No critic, that I'm aware of, has really even held back in their praise of Ms. Cotillard's performance in this film, even those who hated the film, which has been divisive. However, those who loved it did so fervently. France's choice NOT to submit the film for the Foreign Language competition may actually improve her chances, as it gives director Audiard's fervent fan base a chance to recognize the movie through her instead.
4. Maggie Smith - Quartet...Like I said, I'm sort of shooting in the dark from here on, but: 1. The film is under distribution by the Weinsteins. Harvey often gives a serious push towards establishing a secondary nominee in each category. 2. She is HOT. She has had the most dramatically blossoming post-Potter career so far, from her multiple Emmy winning work in Downtown Abbey, to the surprising box office success of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. At 77, she is nearly as popular as she ever has been. 3. She is easily the most widely praised aspect of this mostly well received film. The only downside is that with two wins and four additional nominations, she is not exactly working the overdue factor.
5. Naomi Watts - The Impossible....Many feel that she is overdue for a second nomination, and she is easily the most widely praised aspect of this surprisingly well reviewed (at film festivals) picture. Exceeding expectations is always a plus, and few took her, or the film's, chances too seriously until it was seen. Now, she's the scrappy underdog contender, whose buzz is entirely organic.
6. Helen Mirren - Hitchcock...She is the great question mark. No one has seen the film. It entered this year's race a few weeks ago like a strategic strike, and no one is entirely certain what prompted the move. Surely it was rushed in because it suddenly seemed well poised to be a serious contender in some major race, and Actress is probably the one that seems to have the fewest strong candidates at the moment. Oh, and she is Oscar winner and four time nominee Helen Mirren.
7. Keira Knightley - Anna Karenina...Many feel that Ms. Knightley is due a second nomination, but many don't. She is a divisive actress as a rule, and her performance in this particular movie has not exactly broken said rule. Unless the field suddenly becomes much more crowded with actresses whose work has received widely enthusiastic praise, however, she IS still a possibility.
8. Emmanuelle Riva - Amour...This may be the most internationally renowned performance of the year in the movie that is far and away the front runner to win Foreign Language Film and a real possibility as a Best Picture nominee. She would also be the oldest ever nominee in this category which would bookend well with Ms. Wallis. The thing that gives me pause is that a nomination for her would either mean that two actresses get in for non-English language roles this year or Ms. Cotillard gets left out.
9. Elle Fanning - Ginger and Rosa...Although much of the word on this film from the festival circuit has been less than enthusiastic, Ms. Fanning's performance has almost always been noted as being the film's saving grace, and she has been steadily building a solid little body of work.
10. Judi Dench - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel...The film did make a LOT of money, she is highly beloved within the Academy, and you just never know. However, she does have a LOT of competition for the beloved veteran slot(s) this year.
And that's the way I see it right now. Sorry for the slight slow down in production, we'll try and knock out the rest of this series in short order.
Related posts: September Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Techs Part One, and Part 2, The Genres, Screenplays, and Supporting Performers;