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Oscars 2016: Best Actor

Boy, this is a weak category isn’t it? I could re-do this category with five completely different performers, something I couldn’t do for the previous categories. I’m not really sure what happened here, and the conversation for this category seems surrounded over DiCaprio finally receiving his Oscar. Thankfully I hope it happens so that Twitter pundits will finally have somewhere else to put their repressed anger. I could rant about how awful his performance is, but I don’t want to take away from the other four talented performers, so let’s just dive into this mess.

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Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant  Will Win

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – Should Win

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Power Rankings: DiCaprio-Fassbender-Cranston-Redmayne-Damon

Let’s get the other guys out of the way. A back-to-back win is often unprecedented, and as good as Eddie Redmayne is, overexposure is never a good thing. While his performance is hailed, the same can’t be said for the film, so let’s leave The Danish Girl to the craft categories. Ditto to The Martian for tech awards. The love for The Martian can be explained by the box office numbers but also the love for Ridley Scott and straight-up crowd pleasers. There’s always a film like this in the mix, one universally loved and nitpicked. While it just missed my top ten, and swept in the “Comedy” categories at the Golden Globes, I don’t see Damon walking away with the prize in any universe. Additionally, Cranston falls in the “it’s an honor just to be nominated” echelon, and the rising adoration for Trumbo may have been too little, too late.

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If I had my pick, Fassbender would have this one in a heartbeat. Danny Boyle’s film is a masterpiece, and it’s a tragedy alone for the film to be left out of top categories, but that one I can forgive. Unforgivable however, would be missing out on Michael Fassbender’s remarkable performance. He’s an actor that is revered in some corners, yet completely obscure in others, and an Oscar might be just what he needs to break out. Still though, if a loss means we’ll be treated to more performances like MacBeth, then it’s fine by me.

And now we come to Leo, poor Leo, who will most likely win for one of his worst and least memorable turns in The Revenant. Asking where his Oscar is at this point is unproductive, since he probably has his acceptance speech for this one ready. I wish he had received an Oscar for a role more daring however, one like he gave in Catch Me If You Can or even 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. His performance in The Revenant is uninspired, and a plain bore to sit through.

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In a perfect world, Steve Carell would be back in the mix again for his role in The Big Short. His transformation throughout the film is heartbreaking to watch, and always entertaining. He’s better than Bale in my opinion, and his omission is an unfortunate one. For a while, many thought Johnny Depp was number one for this category, but the mixed response to Black Mass and simple lack of conversation about his performance may have hurt him. I haven’t seen the film, but like DiCaprio, Depp is the owner of zero statuettes.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Supporting Actor

Arguably the most interesting of the acting categories this year, Best Supporting Actor is always prone to a high degree of drama and conspiracy, as category fraud runs amuck post-Golden Globes. You can argue the screen time of these fine actors, but there are never clear guidelines as to what constitutes a ‘supporting’ role. Drama aside, these are one of the few categories this year that don’t feel locked down this point in Oscar season. Surprise nominees have changed the game and studios campaigning in categories where their performers don’t belong have made the supporting roles the most volatile, and we may be looking at some surprises come February.

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures', Warner Bros. Pictures' and New Line Cinema's drama "Creed," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP) ORG XMIT: CAET190

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – Should Win

Sylvester Stallone, Creed – Will Win

Power RankingsStallone-Rylance-Bale-Hardy-Ruffalo

I love Stallone’s narrative after the surprise success of Creed. He’s never won an Oscar, and what a better way to pay tribute to the acting veteran than a win for the role that made him so renown. If the Oscars go this route, which they most likely will, I have no qualms because Stallone is great in the movie, but I think there a few better actors on this list, technically speaking. Mark Rylance, who was probably the only sure thing in this list when we were talking last October, gives a quietly destructive performance in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Despite the film’s wavering success post-release, Rylance has been the one constant that critics can agree on. A first-time nominee, Rylance hasn’t had a role like this before, and it’s a knock out (Creed joke).

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The other three nominees is where this category gets interesting, because I could honestly see any of them taking home the trophy as well. Christian Bale is probably the most likely of the three remainders, which would be a shame because I think Steve Carrell gives the best performance in The Big Short. Nevertheless, Bale is on a roll with supporting roles as of late, able to blend into these eccentric characters (see: American Hustle) with ease. As far as Tom Hardy is concerned, despite being the saving grace in that unbearable film, I wouldn’t count him out as well – we could be looking at another Dallas Buyers Club Actor-Supporting Actor victory. Mark Ruffalo takes the last spot as the inevitable Spotlight nominee, beating out fellow Michael Keaton in an explosive performance, but one that most likely won’t go down as one of his best. Spotlight is juggling a lot on its plate right now, and it may be difficult to gauge its prospects, but I have a hard time imagining a Ruffalo victory Oscars night. His narrative repeats itself again from last year’s Foxcatcher, another chilly film with great performances, and if history repeats itself then he’ll be left out in the cold.

So who was left off the final list this year? Many. Room’s Jacob Tremblay was right on the bubble for this one, and he would’ve been a refreshing change of pace for a category that normally skewers older. Given the AMPAS’s love for the film (including Best Picture and Director nominations), I was shocked by this one after Tremblay’s SAG nomination. Other near misses included Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation and Jason Mitchell for Straight Outta Compton, two diverse performances that are the best parts of their respective films. Elba’s omission is especially head-scratching, given how well he’s been received including a Golden Globe and ISA nomination. My personal nomination for this category, however, would’ve been Jason Segel in The End of the Tour. The quiet Sundance film didn’t make much of a splash on the fall circuit, but Segel gives the performance of his career as author David Foster Wallace.

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Posted by on January 30, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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The Oscars: Ranking the Best Picture Nominees

9. Her – Spike Jonze’s love story Her might be the only Oscar nominee this year that I did not enjoy in some way. While well-intentioned, Her feels like a first draft. Joaquin Phoenix is drab and dull, with Scarlett Johansson ironically providing the voice of the only “alive” character in the film. In what’s supposed to be a “feel good” movie, Her ends up feeling too bizarre and takes an odd experimental approach. Despite the film’s beautiful cinematography, Her winds up being a mess of good ideas.

12-years-a-slave8. 12 Years a Slave – That’s right. The current front runner ends up at the back of the pack. Steve McQueen’s gripping slave drama is a beautiful portrait of a dark time in our nation’s history. While Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender both pack a punch, the rest of the cast feels less involved. While 12 Years a Slave might be a great period piece, it is extremely emotionally distant. While McQueen wants you to feel something when you watch this film, he isn’t quite sure what that is, and the result is a mixed bag of emotions that never really takes off.

7. Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks is a powerhouse in the real life tale of the ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates. The biggest Oscar snub this year comes from Hanks, who commands the film with the urgency it requires. A 2 hour suspense trip, Captain Phillips is great filmmaking. Barkhad Abdi also is chilling as the pirate leader. Greengrass nails the film intense action and great cinematography. Everyone talks about the last 15 minutes of the film as some of Hanks’s best work, but the entire film represents Hanks at his best.

131031_MOV_DallasBuyersClub.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge6. Dallas Buyers ClubDallas Buyers Club did not interest me at all at first. Matthew McConaughey has not picked the best roles in the past, but I could not have been more wrong. McConaughey now enters the league of distinguished actors with Buyers Club. The AIDS drama manages to be both educational and entertaining. With other great performances form Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner (surprisingly snubbed), Dallas Buyers Club deserves to be seen.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour party will leave you exhausted – in a good way of course. The true life tale of Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the wildest films you’ll see all year. It’s hilarious, grotesque, and entertaining. Headed by the brilliant Leonardo DiCaprio and a great supporting cast, The Wolf of Wall Street is definitely not for everyone, but for everyone else it’s a wild ride that is worth the admission.

Philomena4. Philomena – The film I was holding out ended up being one of my favorites of 2013. Stephen Frears’s Philomena expertly blends bits of humor with a dark and emotional journey. What I love about Philomena is that it isn’t afraid of an unhappy ending. As Philomena and journalist Martin Sixsmith interact on this journey to find her long lost son, you’ll see one of the most interesting relationships unravel on screen. A beautiful score and an array of twists keep Philomena from being the snooze-fest it could have been, as it is well worth seeing.

3. American Hustle – David O. Russell’s ode to cinema has received much flack for lacking substance, but American Hustle is anything but. A cast that I’m still speechless by, a well-crafted story with plenty of twists and turns, and a brilliant sense of style help catapult Hustle to the front of the race. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are flawless in the film, that will be remembered for taking risks that ultimately pay off. Hustle is of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen, one that is only possible through the medium of film.

2. Nebraska – Alexander Payne is one of my favorite directors, and while Nebraska might not be his flashiest film, it’s still an incredible film worth seeing. Bruce Dern and Will Forte have a brilliant dynamic as father and son, as son David goes with his father Woody to collect a winning prize that he believes he has won. The film is also bitingly funny, in a dark sort of way. June Squibb steals the show as the crass mother Kate, and as you meet the host of wild family members, you begin to feel a little better about your own.

GRAVITY1. Gravity – I still believe Gravity will be remembered for changing cinema, and for that reason it deserves Best Picture. Technological achievements aside, Gravity tells an emotional tale that will tear your heart apart and keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen, and one of the best dramas told on screen. Sandra Bullock holds her own as astronaut Ryan Stone, who is lost in space after a tragic accident. George Clooney also stops by, but Bullock commands the film. Her best performance to date, Gravity has been criticized for being too simplistic for its own good. I’m not exactly sure what those critics were expecting, but I’m glad that Gravity doesn’t feel the need to be overcomplicated or overlong, like other sci-fi movies of late. Clocking in at 90 minutes, it’s a perfect running time for the perfect film, one that will change cinema forever.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in 2014 Academy Awards

 

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