Sizing Up: Best Actor 2015

leoAhoy there folks. We come now to part three of this year’s Sizing Up series, which as you know are a group of articles that deal with how to rank the chances of the various categories of Oscar contenders in a given year. This one is as close to an all-encompassing grouping of the hopefuls for Best Actor as is possible (excluding some of the various no shot contenders scattered around town), which I know is one that some of you have annually looked forward. I’m looking to categorize them by their assumed likelihood of a nomination come the big morning, but clearly there’s plenty of guesswork at play here as well, even in a category as jam paced and competitive as this one usually is. For my money, this is usually the most competitive category all around. There’s a bunch of top-tier contenders that all could win, let alone get nominated, so this is more of a top-heavy category than usual, though not quite as deep as usual. Last year I had all five in my Pole Position section (including eventual winner Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything), so keep that in mind. Enough chit-chat about the race, let’s begin now and take a look at the contenders for Best Actor as we size up the field!

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

First of all, let me start as usual by throwing out a few names that have zero chance of getting nominated this year in the Best Actor category. I’m fully confident that people such as Billy Crudup (The Stanford Prison Experiment), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Jack O’Connell (’71), Patrick Stewart (Match), Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People), and Anton Yelchin (5 to 7) are out of the race. Some of them did very fine work that will be unrewarded because of their film, while some just underwhelmed to one degree or another, but all are out of the running at this point and time. Moving on though, let’s go now and focus on the people who might actually have a shot at a nod, starting with, of course, the longest of the long shots for a nom this year.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This first grouping here consists of ten actors that I think almost certainly won’t be big contenders for the prize, but aren’t out of the race completely yet and deserve at least a small mention here in this section. They either have films that won’t make much headway in the race at this point, performances that won’t really appeal to enough Academy members for heavy nomination consideration, or just don’t have any real traction of note at this point. Some of them are/were bigger contenders than others and maybe one could wind up surprising you somehow, but for me I’m inclined to bet against every single one of them right now, and heavily too. The men in question here in 2015 are as follows:

robin williamsAntonio BandarasThe 33
Bradley CooperBurnt
Jesse EisenbergThe End of the Tour
Joseph Gordon-LevittThe Walk
Tom HardyLegend
Michael B. JordanCreed
Thomas MannMe and Earl and the Dying Girl
Ben MendelsohnMississippi Grind
Joaquin PhoenixIrrational Man
Robin WilliamsBoulevard

Honestly, I really don’t see any of these guys winding up with even a sniff at a nomination, but if any of them have a shot at all, it’s probably either Michael B. Jordan or perhaps even the late Robin Williams. Jordan will benefit if his movie Creed turns out to be a surprise contender, though as essentially a sports franchise sequel, that might be difficult. As for Williams, we just don’t really see posthumous nominations anymore, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for Boulevard to get cited. Alas.

The “Second Tier” Contenders

Now then, these particular gentlemen in this category are more solidly in play for attention in the Best Actor field, but have some serious questions to answer before that can even come close to happening. A few of the questions posed to them are in relation to their film, but others are just because of the actor themselves or their performance in comparison to bigger contenders. I think that for the most part they all will wind up fading fast and more or less being forgotten by the big morning, but it’s possible one of them could ride a bunch of precursor love to a surprise nomination…hell, maybe even two could, since it’s such a deep field. There’s ten of these particular actors that would like to be considered bigger time contenders this year. I don’t see them as those sort of ones, but like I said, they’re not amazingly far off, to differing degrees. The ones I see in this particular light are:

02-Son-of-Saul-Soul-FiaAbraham Attah Beasts of No Nation
Tom Courtenay45 Years
Cliff CurtisThe Dark Horse
John CusackLove & Mercy
Andrew Garfield99 Homes
Richard GereTime Out of Mind
Chris HemsworthIn the Heart of the Sea
Tobey MaguirePawn Sacrifice
Ian McKellenMr. Holmes
Géza RöhrigSon of Saul

If you forced me to make final predictions I couldn’t go back and amend here in November (which is funny considering I update my predictions a few times a week at this point, as you know by now if you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter), I wouldn’t bet on any of these guys getting nods, but a few do have shots worth mentioning. Those would be Tom Courtenay, John Cusack, Chris Hemsworth, and Géza Röhrig (personally, I wish Abraham Attah was a true contender for Beasts of No Nation, but that seems unlikely). Now, I obviously don’t have any of them getting in, but Courtenay in 45 Years and Cusack in Love & Mercy could benefit from their co-stars potentially getting nods in other categories, even if their chances at a nom aren’t necessarily boosted that much. Hemsworth has the unknown factor still in his favor for In the Heart of the Sea, while for a small crowd, Röhrig gave the performance of the year so far in Son of Saul. The one here that has the most upward mobility is probably Röhrig, but I’m not ready to buy him as a top tier contender just yet. Those are up next here…

The “Pole Position” Contenders

Finally ladies and gents, these fellas right here are without question the dozen most likely contenders for Best Actor in my little black book of Oscar prognostication. My personal predictions in this specific category are contained within this grouping (obviously), along with seven others who could easily take their place in the category. They each have a nice amount of factors going in their favor and seem to be in position for some precursor attention in the coming months, if nothing else (though almost all will likely get more than just a mention here and there). They’re also the stars of some of the most mentioned films so far this year, especially in my Sizing Up series so far, and I don’t exact that to change anytime soon. The twelve talented men that I speak so highly of? They are:

MIchaelCannesYouthMichael CaineYouth
Steve CarellThe Big Short
Bryan CranstonTrumbo
Matt DamonThe Martian
Johnny DeppBlack Mass
Leonardo DiCaprioThe Revenant
Michael FassbenderSteve Jobs
Jake GyllenhaalSouthpaw
Tom HanksBridge of Spies
Samuel L. JacksonThe Hateful Eight (Could go Supporting)
Eddie RedmayneThe Danish Girl
Will SmithConcussion

Best Actor is often more than a dozen deep in terms of contenders who are being heavily predicted for a nomination, so it’s usually open season for anyone to make a play for not just a nomination, but a win too. That’s not quite true here in 2015, but there’s probably a solid ten sparring for a nod. The two longer shots for an Actor nom? That would be Bryan Cranston for Trumbo and Samuel L. Jackson for The Hateful Eight (who might even wind up going Supporting instead of Lead), if you ask me. On the flip side, the closest things to locks right now are Michael Fassbender (even if his chances of winning are slimmer now) for Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl, with potentially Matt Damon sitting in a nice spot as well for The Martian. There’s also Leonardo DiCaprio in everyone’s predictions despite no one having seen his film The Revenant. If you take those four as the top four right now, that leaves a half dozen guys vying for the number five spot. A lot of people have Johnny Depp, but I don’t see that ultimately happening with how lukewarm most are about Black Mass. Likewise, Will Smith was a popular pick until the recent reviews for his flick Concussion cut him down a peg. So, it’s between Michael Caine for Youth, Steve Carell for The Big Short, Jake Gyllenhaal for Southpaw, and Tom Hanks for Bridge of Spies when it comes to the outstanding spot, essentially. Caine is a dark horse for sure (full disclosure, he gives one of my favorite performances of the year so far), while Carell has been getting some great early notice at advance screenings. Unless you buy the Gyllenhaal hype from Harvey Weinstein/The Weinstein Company though, it seems like Hanks could emerge in the end with the final slot if it doesn’t wind up being Caine. I suppose you can’t count out Depp or Smith either, further showing how up in the air things are here. DiCaprio is the de facto winner to many, though that could change very quickly. Stay tuned…


Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


Leave a Reply

    Film Review: Entertainment (★★½)

    INTERVIEW: Rick Alverson and Gregg Turkington discuss ‘Entertainment’