Oscars 2014: Will Win/Should Win (Joseph Braverman)

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Will and Should Win: Even though Dallas Buyers Club may rest on its laurels too often to be called a masterful work of art, it’s nearly impossible to deny Jared Leto’s staggering work as Rayon, a transgender AIDS victim who allows his humanity to fly as high as his freak flag. Leto pours anguish, truth, wit and compassion into his performance, bringing forth a character that feels so well-rounded and sincere that when the tears start to roll, they actually sting on your skin. I have my issues with all five of the nominated performances in this category, and all are due to my frustrations with the respective scripts. Even so, Leto manages to work through his underwritten character and turn a stereotype into an unlikely hero denied his/her basic right to live. Leto has been steamrolling the competition because of his astonishing career-revitalization, and nobody can stop his giant “invite” back into the acting fold.

Should Have Been Nominated: It’s true that sometimes minorities aren’t given the best material to work with, material often reserved for the white individuals most are used to seeing carry the most serious, most thematically heavy of narratives on their shoulders. But when such strong, powerful material is given to the underprivileged, there’s no excuse to turn a blind eye. Abbas Kioarstami’s Like Someone in Love allowed its Japanese actors a space in which they could voice their inner anguish concerning a society that is culturally suffocated by the West. If you don’t adhere to the status quo, you will be shunned, and the characters in this particular film go the darkest of lengths to make sure they are meeting the societal expectations Tokyo city life has placed on them. No actor demonstrates this hardship more than Ryo Kase, an extraordinary talent who has delivered stunning work throughout his career but hasn’t sunk this emotionally deep until now. Playing the role of the abusive boyfriend, one would imagine Kase to be an unlikable nightmare that sends chills through the body by his very presence. Instead, Kase turns this wounded soul into a sympathetic man who wants to love at any cost, tragically brainwashed into believing that a woman is his property and that she is his to protect..and beat-up if necessary. There’s a cruelty to Kase’s character that is unshakeable, but there’s also a lost young man who you feel deep down could have been a good person if social circumstances had been drastically different.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Will and Should Win: This is one of those times where I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain myself. There are performances that excite, make us laugh, compel us to keep watching…but soon they drift from memory after the applause is over and our head hits the pillow. And then there are performances that cut so deep, they carve out a wound that is impossible to heal. Lupita Nyong’o has that effect on most everyone who watches her in 12 Years a Slave. She’s only in the film for such a short amount of time, but her agony, her despair, her unwavering spirit without wings takes hold of us as soon as we meet her character, Patsey, and never once lets go. Even when those around her turn John Ridley’s dialogue into a playground for self-entitlement, Lupita always puts her character’s agenda before her own career as an actress. You never once feel as though she’s stealing anything from the experience of watching the film play out (*cough* Jennifer Lawrence *cough*), and it’s her restraint and reliance upon human instinct and true-to-life reactions that makes her performance the most magical of all. Poised, elegant, and eloquent during her speeches, Lupita Nyong’o is a breath of fresh air whose inner and outer beauty matches her divine talent. She’s more than worthy of winning the Academy Award this year or any year if she delivers a performance on par with 12 Years a Slave. After winning the Critics Choice and Screen Actor Guild Awards, Nyong’o has enough momentum and support behind her to edge her ahead of Lawrence, who won an Oscar last year for work that at least merited recognition.

Should Have Been Nominated: It’s hard to stand out when you have Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts chewing up a scene like cattle on grass, but Julianne Nicholson makes sure her voice is heard among the A-listers in August: Osage County. Quiet, internally conflicted, Nicholson as Ivy Weston has us at full attention with a simple look of haunted horror as her family unravels into chaos with every dark secret flung across the dinner table. It takes everything in one’s power not to reach out and give Nicholson’s Ivy a hug after enduring such unspeakable evil from individuals who claim to love her. Had Julia been appropriately campaigned in “Lead Actress,” Nicholson made have made some headway in this race just due to the fact that Ivy is just about the only selfless, blameless member of the heavily-flawed Weston family. But don’t mistake Ivy as weak or someone to be pitied — Nicholson’s strong-willed performance demonstrates there’s some fight in Ivy so long as her virulent mother Violet takes time to pause during her insult-spewing sessions.