Will Win: Matthew McConaughey is too charming and talented to walk away empty-handed on Oscar night, especially given the fact that he’s been dominating the precursor circuit like a matador putting his raging bull into submission. As much as I love MM, I can’t say I’m as enthused about his work in Dallas Buyers Club compared to three of his competitors (DiCaprio, Ejiofor and Dern), who really craft their performances into something much more powerful than a palpable transformation. However, watching the much-improved thespian over the last few years excel in thoroughly complex, thoroughly demanding roles has me embracing this imminent victory as one giant accolade for the extraordinary “McConnaissance” that’s taken place (Bernie, The Paperboy, Mud, Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective). Welcome to the club of “The Greats,” McConaughey — you’ve more than earned your spot.
Should Win: Owning his star-power, morally corrupt character, and inner comedian we never knew was there but are oh so glad has finally revealed itself, Leonardo DiCaprio shows the world who’s boss among the Hollywood elite in The Wolf of Wall Street. As physical as it is dramatic, as riotous as it is degrading, DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort is the equivalent of enduring vomit hurled at us for a relentless three-hours, but somehow we welcomed such disgusting release. It isn’t that DiCaprio reveled in playing a maniacal cartoon character that makes Bugs Bunny look as innocent as Mother Teresa; it’s that he tapped into a dark side of humanity buried deep within us all, ready to burst to the surface if our position in society made us practically invincible to damnation. DiCaprio gave us the roller coaster ride of a lifetime, making absolutely sure we felt more than a little sick after the ride finally ended. We may feel guilty, we may feel dizzy, but what DiCaprio gave us was an invaluable look into the fleeting happiness of a life of power, wealth, and excess…one that is but all guaranteed to come crashing down if you don’t take a moment to breathe and cherish the non-material.
Should Have Been Nominated: Continuing its tradition of overlooking young male actors under 25 in “Lead Actor,” it isn’t surprising that the Academy couldn’t find a spot for Mud’s Tye Sheridan, a young talent who conveys astounding levels of maturity with a single heartbreaking glance directed at Reese Witherspoon’s Juniper in the aforementioned film. The kid is more than a natural — he’s a shape-shifter, turning every role he tackles into one that feels as normal and everyday as his own real self. You can see Tye Sheridan grow as a person when playing protagonist Ellis, the harsh realities of adulthood hitting him like a ton of bricks, dismantling all the optimism and fantasy he held on to for so long. Sheridan evokes the pangs of losing such idealism and innocence with depressing effect, yet there’s a fearlessness to his performance that inspires hope, that perhaps all the trials and tribulations Ellis endures will allow him to see the world the way it’s meant to be seen, not the way most kids are molded to see the world as they get older: full of bias and indoctrinated indifference toward others. Calling Sheridan’s performance in Mud the best child performance of all-time isn’t totally inaccurate. I, for one, consider it to be among the greatest ever witnessed.
Will and Should Win: Okay, I can admit when I’m wrong and when I’ve been defeated. I truly believed a BAFTA win would be in the cards for Amy Adams, who is the only non-winning performer in the current “Best Actress” lineup. However, it seems the support for Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine has only curled its loving fist tighter than before. Blanchett has won every single precursor she’s needed to minus the NBR, which ironically went to the unrecognized Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks. Maybe the shift toward rewarding a performance on merit is actually going to happen this year. Playing a mentally unstable individual is always a vote-drawer, but to create such believable insanity with such dedication and absence of self is a task only the best could accomplish. After that unnerving, career-topping performance, Blanchett proves she is the best, and thus her superiority in this field isn’t just apparent — it’s downright unarguable!
Should Have Been Nominated: After watching her stunning breakthrough work as a girl who bares all — flesh and emotion at their most vulnerable states — it’s beyond incomprehensible that Adéle Exarchopoulos couldn’t snag a much-deserved “Best Actress” nomination. Her unknown status coupled with the controversial subject matter of her film were two of her biggest drawbacks, but sometimes a performance is so undeniable that it supersedes all biases. For many weeks after being entranced by Exarchopoulos’ work, I thought she could make it all the way, perhaps even emerge victorious on Oscar night. However, it soon became apparent that being in the “in crowd” and having a bubbly, affable personality makes all the difference in the end. Unfortunately, as meaty as her work was, Adéle Exarchopoulos herself was just too raw to handle. That’s okay, Adéle, your depiction of a young girl battling with her sexuality and the arduous journey from adolescence to adulthood will forever be ingrained in moviegoers’ minds for generations to come. It’s one of those timeless performances that you can revel in time and time again, amazed at the bravery and commitment to a side of life most would never in a million years share on Facebook.