A little less than a year ago, we examined one of the most competitive Oscar races we’ve seen in some time. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” entered Phase 1 as the critical favorite, many declaring it the one to beat. “Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” came as a serious threat after bowing at Telluride, Venice, and the New York Film Festival. We looked at other dark horses but when everything was said and done, Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”), and Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”) were heavily favored all season long. Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) looked to have a strong hold but in the final stretch, lost ground to Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”). I bring this up because this year, we have a full on, open race, in all the major categories. We can chalk this up to lack of passion, which could result in a mundane year as compared to others, but it makes for a more interesting Oscar race to cover.
Michael Keaton is back in the race again this year for his impressive work in Tom McCarthy’s brilliant “Spotlight.” Confirmed to be campaigned in the Supporting category, along with the rest of the cast, the Supporting Actor race has emerged as the most competitive race seen in years. If you follow several pundits around the web, you’ll find a different five on nearly every list.
Keaton’s co-star Mark Ruffalo, delivering his career best, could find room alongside him as a nominee, making them the first double male nominees from the same film since “Bugsy” twenty-four years ago. Open Road Films will also place money behind Liev Schreiber‘s work, and along with his other acclaimed turn in “Pawn Sacrifice,” could find him in contention for a mention. “Spotlight” isn’t the only film with multiple possibilities within.
Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” has seven men to make a list for, but based on the test screening that occurred a few weeks ago, Samuel L. Jackson is the one worth noting. Rumors have surfaced that a Lead Actor push may occur, which based on the weak slate that race has, would shake things up considerably. Kurt Russell is still on the table but the other big name that was thrown about was Jennifer Jason Leigh, who looks to be the current favorite if all things align.
Sight unseen, at least until this weekend at NYFF, Mark Rylance is rumored to be a strong contender for Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.” Fresh off his first Emmy nomination for TV’s “Wolf Hall,” 2015 can continue his trajectory upward. There’s also roles for Billy Magnussen and Alan Alda worth considering.
Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” will also get the Centerpiece treatment at NYFF this weekend. With that, we’ll see if we need to take Seth Rogen‘s prospects seriously, as is the same for co-star Jeff Daniels.
With the buzz growing substantially for Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” which won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto, Brie Larson has emerged a heavy favorite for her first Oscar nomination/win. Her co-star Jacob Tremblay will find his route during the awards season on a supporting bid. Speaking with one of my writer’s today, our last young male nominee (under 18 years old) seems like Justin Henry (?) for “Kramer vs. Kramer,” which is nuts. Looking over the years at performers like Freddie Highmore in “Finding Neverland” who had traction but lost out on the end. It’s long overdue.
Bradley Cooper will be boasting two performances for his fourth consecutive acting nomination. John Wells’ “Burnt” looks to be dark and gritty for him in the Lead Actor arena while he seems to be having a ball in the trailer for David O. Russell’s “Joy.” The 20th Century Fox film will also try to drive the word around Robert DeNiro and possibly Edgar Ramirez.
The list continues with Benicio del Toro‘s acclaimed work in “Sicario,” which as more people get to it, the better his chances are becoming. Same goes for the recent Academy screenings of “Black Mass,” which are not only buzzing on Johnny Depp, but his co-star Joel Edgerton, who may be a dark horse in the race.
Tom Hardy‘s camp has been aching for his first nomination since his work in films like “Bronson” and “Warrior” have gone unnoticed. If all goes well, he seems to have a dynamite chance for “The Revenant” if it lives up to the high expectations.
The veterans are in full swing as Harvey Keitel will make a play for his second nomination for Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” alongside co-star Michael Caine. Robert Redford‘s work as Dan Rather is stoic and impressive in James Vanderbilt’s “Truth” but Cate Blanchett seems to be eating up much of the love for that movie.
After being passed over for “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Dano seems to finally have a vehicle for the well-liked “Love & Mercy,” which will have him in the supporting playground, while his counterpart John Cusack will try his luck in lead.
Netflix is bullish on their chances for Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation,” which is a smart hunch given its love at the festivals thus far.
The independent sector has some names in play as well this year. Jason Segel‘s work in “The End of the Tour” will get a run and we should expect to see Michael Shannon pop up during the season for “99 Homes.”
And we’re still not done. Universal Pictures had a huge hit of the summer with “Straight Outta Compton,” and with that, Jason Mitchell will be working the circuit to gain some momentum toward a very deserved nomination.
Fox Searchlight Pictures is hedging its bets on “Brooklyn,” so we should expect Emory Cohen to manuever his way through the year.
Paramount Pictures joined the fray last week with Adam McKay’s “The Big Short,” which brings all the talents of Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale to the table. Is it too late for it to strike?
Finally, Oscar Isaac (“Ex Machina“), Sam Elliott (“Grandma“), John Turturro (“Mia Madre“), and perhaps even Michael Sheen (“Far from the Madding Crowd”) are all in contention and making their preparations. That’s an insane list. Oh yeah, and I’ve already gone on record about “The Lobster,” and I would love to see some support thrown towards Ben Whishaw and/or John C. Reilly but I digress.
The field is so deep this year and I think we can talk about any category as competitive but Supporting Actor has my attention at the moment.
The Oscar Predictions have been updated. Click through all the boxes for commentary and include your own thoughts on the race in the comments below.
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