Welcome to Oscar week 2014. The 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, are this Sunday and it’s time to break down and analyze just who or what is going to be walking off the stage with an Oscar. If you follow my website, you will know that I’ve been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2014 Awards Tracker. To put it in educational terms to match this website’s theme, those numbers have been by “data analysis” to predicting just what films are going to win. It’s time to make my formal predictions. In this sixth post, we are deep into the major award categories. Here are my picks for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor. Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool. Let’s go!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The nominees: Barkhad Abdi for “Captain Phillips,” Bradley Cooper for “American Hustle,” Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave,” Jonah Hill for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):
27- Leto, 6- Fassbender, 4- James Franco, “Spring Breakers,” 3- Abdi, 1- James Gandolfini, “Enough Said,” 1- Will Forte, “Nebraska,” 1- Jake Gyllenhaal, “Prisoners,” 1- Bill Nighy, “About Time”
Who was snubbed: Compared to the Best Actor pool of potential nominees, which was one of the deepest in years (more on that in a second), this nomination field was wide open in my opinion. There are certainly a few standouts among the final five, but plenty of nominees are weaker selections that could have been bounced for any number of possibilities. Voters could have posthumously honored James Gandolfini for “Enough Said,” which would have been perfectly fitting, in my opinion. The younger MTV crowd got behind James Franco and his villain for “Spring Breakers.” He’s got the third most wins on the Awards Tracker making it a legitimate case for a true snub. I didn’t buy it, but he’s got a following.
Happy to be there: Much like I just discussed in my last post with Cate Blanchett. Everyone not named Jared Leto should be happy to be there with a tuxedo on Sunday night. This one’s a lock and no one else has a chance. Abdi is a nice story as an immigrant who was driving Minneapolis cabs between acting gigs before scoring “Captain Phillips.” Enjoy the night, kid. Happiest of all should be Jonah Hill. Somehow, that clown is now a “two-time” Oscar nominee. Just wait for the voiceover guy to say that in the next trailer for “22 Jump Street.” Facepalm. “The Wolf of Wall Street” took a lot of effort, but Hill is not that good.
Who should win and who will win: As much as I really appreciate the talent of Michael Fassbender and how much I want to name him the best of this category, I cannot deny the absolute dedication and nerve brought to the role played by Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club.” As a transgender AIDS sufferer next to Matthew McConaughey, Leto is the heart and soul of that excellent movie. This is a complete worthy winner and recipient for this award. This one is a no-doubter for Leto.
The nominees: Christian Bale for “American Hustle,” Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave,” Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):
24- Ejiofor, 12- McConaughey, 4- Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” 3- Dern, 1- DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” 1- Robert Redford, “All Is Lost,” 1- Forrest Whitaker, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Who was snubbed: I hinted at this earlier. This was easily the deepest Best Actor field in years. Sometimes, it’s hard to find five really deserving nominees each year. Not this time. Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”), Forrest Whitaker (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Her”), and Robert Redford (“All Is Lost”) all could have made this field and even outright won the Oscar. Between those men, there are five Oscars on that bench on the outside looking in. That’s a lot of hardware. The five men that made this filed and extremely lucky. For me, the biggest omissions are Redford and Phoenix. Even without dialogue, Redford put on a clinic of physical and nuanced performance where action and expression mattered. He was incredible in “All Is Lost.” If he were in this field, he would be my “should win,” hands down. Phoenix did a phenomenal amount of work reacting to little more than a recording and his own thoughts in isolation, in a performance easily better than the “happy to be there” people coming next.
Happy to be there: Even though this field was strong, two nominees are here only for two different bandwagons. Bale is a past Oscar winner for “The Fighter,” a better David O. Russell film than “American Hustle.” He was good in “American Hustle,” but this was a bandwagon nomination that added to its gaudy and unnecessary 10 nomination total. The other lucky SOB is Bruce Dern. Like other nominees over the years in both acting categories, he won the senior vote to make the field. In weaker years, we’ve seen that senior win, but it won’t happen this year. Even though he has won a few awards for “Nebraska,” including the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this nomination is his career acknowledgement and consolation prize. It looks about as good as the prize winner hat his character got in the movie.
Who should win: This “should win” vote is supposed to be the place where you vote with your heart instead of your head. That’s why my heart says Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street” as the name that should win. In my opinion, he should have been a multiple Oscar winner by now, but has missed on all of his four previous chances. Heck, he could have had two nominations this year if you throw in “The Great Gatsby” in a supporting role. I would love to see the fifth time finally come through, but I don’t think it will happen. Like I said with “August: Osage County” and Julia Roberts (and will say next paragraph with the predicted winner), “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the best Leo has ever been and that’s saying something considering his resume. I constantly name him the best actor working today under 40 years old (at least until November when he actually turns 40). His collaborations with Scorsese are always good and the guy just keeps getting better. Someday, he’s going to win and it’s going to be richly overdue.
Who will win: DiCaprio picked the wrong year to have his best performance to date, because it’s going to be topped by another career best with Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.” I know the data says Chiwetel Ejiofor by a large margin in terms of prior award wins, but I think the data goes out the window on this one. McConaughey is a roll like no other. He has reinvented himself as an actor, erasing years of terrible action and romantic choices like “Fools Gold” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” (to barely cover the tip of the iceberg), with a two-year body of work that spans “Magic Mike,” “Killer Joe,” “Bernie,” “Mud,” “The Paperboy,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and now “Dallas Buyers Club.” As many have joked, he’s got the best unofficial “For Your Consideration…” campaign going with his transcendent work going on right now with HBO’s “True Detective” which is winning over fans left and right. We’ve seen it in the past with Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Al Pacino, Nicolas Cage, and even John Wayne. When the right moment comes around, the big star gets put on a pedestal for the right movie and role worthy of an Oscar being bestowed. This is that film for McConaughey. Ejiofor is not going to go down without a fight and DiCaprio could steal votes away from Matt, but I think McConaughey hangs on for the win.