Tuesday, July 9, 2013 Oscar Buzz and Predictions - Actor and Actress

     In the interest of trying to finish these close to June, let's hop right to it. As always the buzz is more immediately obvious and I make you wait just a moment longer...

Best Actor
  1. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Bruce Dern - Nebraska
  3. Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyer's Club
  4. Robert Redford - All is Lost
  5. Michael B Jordan - Fruitvale Station

  6. Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
  7. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
  8. Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher
  9. Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
  10. Michael Fassbender - The Counselor

     The buzz seems reasonable here, and I see no reason not to believe that most or all of the gentlemen listed above will deliver noteworthy turns.  I do think that Bruce Dern is probably going to wind up being campaigned in Supporting.  Other than that, my predictions differ mostly in that I tend to give the edge to performances that have already screened and proven to live up to the hype.  With that in mind...

  1. Robert Redford - All is Lost (0 wins out of 1 nomination)...I am a LITTLE self-satisfied that I predicted this a few months back in my first guesses BEFORE anyone saw the film at Cannes.  Since then everyone else has jumped on board with me.  Hopefully we won't capsize.
  2. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis (never nominated)...Word out of Cannes was very strong for this latest Coen production and its star.  Of course, we won't really know until the film debuts to a wider audience, but for now it seems like a strong bet.
  3. Michael B Jordan - Fruitvale Station (never nominated)...This film (and its young star) received raves out of both Sundance and Cannes earlier this year.  The obstacle here will be getting enough people to see the film but modest box office didn't stop Quvenzhane Wallis last year, so it might not matter.  Oh, yeah, the Weinstein Company is handling distribution.
  4. Matthew McConaughey - Mud (never nominated)..It would seem to be Mr. McConaughey's year.  I know everyone else is predicting that he gets in for Dallas Buyer's Club, but we don't REALLY know how that will turn out just yet.  We DO know that Mud was his greatest performance to date, so until that is no longer true, I'm sticking to my guns.
  5. Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher (never nominated)...I love it when famous funny men prove they have dramatic range as well, and so does the Academy.  Bennett Miller directed Jonah Hill to a nod in a role that possessed far less furniture chewing potential, so...

  6. Michael Fassbender - The Counselor (never nominated)...This film is a potentially fantastic question mark at the moment, but after being left out at the 84th Oscars because his equipment was flopping  all around the screen while he out acted all of that year's eventual nominees, the Academy should be looking for an excuse to recognize Fassbender's talent.
  7. Ethan Hawke - Before Midnight (0 wins out of 1 nomination in acting categories)...Something from the first half of the year almost always emerges as a true awards player and the third film in the Before series would seem to be the early bird most likely to succeed at this point in the game.  A previous nod for Training Day demonstrates that the Academy respects Mr. Hawke. If the film scores in Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Actress, he could be swept along with the current.
  8. Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave (never nominated)...Steve McQueen is a strikingly gifted director whose films thus far have featured actors in roles that took them down to very deep and difficult places.  If the never previously nominated actor rises to the challenge, he could be a real threat.  However, he'll have to avoid being upstaged by both McQueen muse Fassbender and Brad Pitt.
  9. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street (0 wins out of 3 nominations)...I LOVE Leo, and he is undeniably one of the most overdue actors out there but I'm SOOOO tired of predicting his nomination every year and being wrong.  See, this is the thing.  Leo CAN get another nomination, and a win, and he will in time. But Leo has to be twice as good to get praise from the Academy as anyone else because he once acted like a brat when he didn't get a nod for playing a role in which he was pleasant, but vastly under challenged. Of course, this was back when he was barely out of his teens.  Now that he's nearing forty, I'd like to ask the Academy: Who's REALLY being the brat?
  10. Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips...Once the AMPAS's favorite son and poster boy, it has been quite some time since Mr. Hanks REALLY threw his hat in the ring.  A lot of pundits believe that this will be the year that he receives a long awaited sixth nomination.  I think he's gearing up, but I could be wrong.  If it DOES happen this year, I prefer to believe it will be for this film, rather that the as yet sap-unseen Saving Mr. Banks.
  I also wouldn't be shocked by:  Casey Affleck - Ain't Them Bodies Saints (0/1), Christian Bale - American Hustle (1/1), Forest Whitaker - The Butler or Untitled Lee Daniels Project (1/1), Benedict Cumberbatch - The Fifth Estate (nn), Michael Shannon - The Iceman (nn), Josh Brolin - Labour Day (0/1), Mark Wahlberg - Lone Survivor (0/1), Idris Elba - Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Christian Bale - Out of the Furnace (1/1), Hugh Jackman - Prisoners (0/1), Colin Firth - The Railway Man (0/2), Daniel Bruhl - Rush (nn), Tom Hanks - Saving Mr. Banks (2/5), Ben Stiller - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (nn), Christoph Waltz - The Zero Theorem (2/2)

Best Actress
  1. Meryl Streep - August: Osage County
  2. Nicole Kidman - Grace of Monaco
  3. Naomi Watts - Diana
  4. Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
  5. Kate Winslet - Labor Day

  6. Sandra Bullock - Gravity
  7. Marion Cotillard - The Immigrant
  8. Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
  9. Berenice Bejo - The Past
  10. Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

     Many a year reaches the half-way point and the biggest challenge in predicting this category is coming up with ten ladies to single out as true real contenders.  Traditionally, more films are led by men with more women playing supporting roles.  This year, however, we actually have a pretty wide field of actresses to choose from.  I could see ANY of the women above winding up with a nomination, but they're not exactly my top ten...

  1. Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine (1 win out of 5 nominations)...No one can claim that the Academy has failed to honor Cate Blanchett, but no one can claim that she hasn't earned and deserved every bit of it.  She looks amazing in the trailer, like her performance IS the film. I could say we all know what Allen is capable of doing when working with a female talent of this caliber if Blanchett wasn't practically in a caliber all her own.
  2. Julie Delpy - Before Midnight (never nominated in acting categories)...I've gone on record with the fact that I expect this film to be the one big above the line player released in the first half of 2013, and this is probably the second most likely nod for it to snag.  Mrs. Delpy's performance has been universally praised as one of the strongest elements.
  3. Meryl Streep - August: Osage County (3 wins out of 17 nominations)  Whatever the AMPAS thinks of DiCaprio that makes them so hesitant to honor him, the opposite must be true of Meryl Streep.  Like Woody Allen, she almost has to be attached to a BAD film to get left out (or request that no one vote for her).  No reason to believe that this Weinstein backed production will fall into that category as of yet, so here she is.
  4. Judi Dench - Philomena (1 win out of 6 nominations)...Speaking of Harvey and Company, they recently picked up this film for distribution at Cannes.  If the move was made as an 86th Oscar play (and with the Weinsteins, it is likely), Best Actress seems like a reasonable primary target.  While the company already had three strong contenders for nomination (Streep, Kidman & Roberts), a second Oscar for aging British matron Dench seems like their strongest play for a win.
  5. Jessica Chastain - The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (0 wins out of 2 nominations)...Both in terms of Academy appeal and ability to deliver, Ms. Chastain shows signs of becoming the Meryl of a new generation.  She's made a believer out of me, demonstrating more range in two short years than most actresses manage in a whole career.  If I have to lay odds for performances I haven't seen (and, well, I kinda do), she seems like a safer bet than most.

  6. Berenice Bejo - The Past (0 wins out of 1 nomination)...Circumstance may well keep The Past from being submitted to the Foreign Language Film race at all, but there's no way that it will fail to register on 2013's awards radar.  Original Screenplay and Actress seem like the categories in which it could most easily compete with English language productions. DuJardin may have won the statue for The Artist, but the world fell in love with Ms. Bejo.
  7. Sandra Bullock - Gravity (1 win out of 1 nomination)...Ms. Bullock is certainly well loved and likable, and it has made her one of the most successful and bankable romantic comedy stars ever.  Now over forty, she is working very hard to expand her range as an actress before she gets relegated to playing rom-com moms.  Her Oscar for the Blind Side came not so much because her performance blew everyone else out of the water (the script was far too saccharine and formulaic to allow for that),  but because it broadened the range of what we had seen her do significantly.  She beat out several younger, more "prestige" actresses for Gravity, and I'm sure that director Cuaron did not take the decision of casting this (practically) one woman show lightly.  The only thing standing in her way is the little problem of the film's subject matter.  The last Best Actress nominee in space was Sigourney Weaver for Aliens waaaay back in 1986.
  8. Julia Roberts - August: Osage County (1 win out of 3 nominations)...It's not that I don't think Ms. Roberts stands a very good chance of being fantastic in this film.  I have reservations about her chances of recognition in this category because of splits.  She and Streep will split the votes of those who wish to honor the film in this category. She, Streep, Dench, and Kidman will split the campaigning efforts of the Weinstein Company.  Of course, it she actually shows us something new and surprising, none of that will matter.
  9. Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks (1 win out 4 nominations)...I recently saw Beautiful Creatures and was reminded of just how great an actress Emma Thompson can be when she's given something to do besides be primly British.  I want to be wrong about how many empty calories this film will contain, but if wishes were fishes we'd all have a feast.
     I'm so lame. I'm declaring number ten a tie.  Again...
  10. Nicole Kidman - Grace of Monaco (1 win out of 3 nominations)
  11. Naomi Watts - Diana (0 wins out of 2 nominations)
     It seems appropriate to pair these ladies, and not just because they are "besties".  They are also both appearing in self-titled biopics about iconic women.  This particular sub-genre of cinema has a bad reputation for good reason.  Quite often such movies exist strictly to serve as Oscar Bait vehicles which exploit the shortage of leading roles available to women to attract stars regardless of how little effort has been put into the script.  Yes, you occasionally get The Queen, but more often you get The Iron Lady.  I would love for one of these two pictures to buck the trend, and both ladies may receive nominations even if my hunch is right on the money.  For now, I'm going to choose to believe that this year's bumper crop of notable women characters is evidence that the day of My Week With Marilyn has passed...and keep my finger's crossed.

  What bumper crop, you say?  Behold this feast...Rooney Mara - Ain't Them Bodies Saints (0/1), Chloe Grace Moretz - Carrie (never nominated), Cate Blanchett - Carol (1/5), Annette Benning - The Face of Love, Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha (never nominated), Marion Cotillard - The Immigrant (1/1), Felicity Jones - The Invisible Woman, Kate Winslet - Labor Day (1/6), Jennifer Lawrence - Serena (1/2), Shailene Woodley - The Spectacular Now (never nominated), Audrey Tatou - Therese Desqueyroux

     With that, we are left with Picture and Director.  I shall try to return posthaste.

  Related articles:  What "Cannes" We Tell So Far?, June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Aural TechsThe Visual TechsThe Genre CategoriesThe ScreenplaysSupporting Players,  Innkeepers of Blood and Shame (Shame review), Water and Earth Make "Mud"

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