With the Academy Awards rolling around, The Argus Arts writers took a look at the nominees. Read on to hear our thoughts about who might win, which underdogs we’re holding out for, and which of the absent films should have made it into the Academy’s bracket. In the process, we examined how categories are organized, judged, and evaluated, and we revisited the films that moved us over the course of 2015.
Actor In A Leading Role
Will Leonardo DiCaprio finally get his ever elusive Oscar? All signs point to yes for this six-time Academy Award-nominated actor. DiCaprio was first expected to receive an Oscar in 1993 for his supporting role as an autistic teenager in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” but was bested by Tommy Lee Jones. Now, twenty four years later, it looks like it is his turn.
DiCaprio’s performance in “The Revenant” is purely physical, as he has fewer than twenty lines in the actual film. Although his performance is commendable and projected for the win, a small minority find him undeserving based on merit, and DiCaprio will have to give thanks to his press team for garnering the win for him this year. Judging from past award shows, DiCaprio should win the award uncontested, as his competitors have not received any industry awards, even though their performances are equally exceptional.
Michael Fassbender’s performance in Aaron Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs” trails behind DiCaprio in the race for the golden statuette. Fassbender channeled the late Jobs and conveyed the vast range of emotions throughout the film’s time jumps. He transformed and adapted to his surroundings like a chameleon and, out of all the biopics on Jobs in recent years, Fassbender’s is the finest.
In Matt Damon’s case, it’s highly unlikely he will be awarded for his performance in “The Martian.” Damon takes a comedic tone in many of the scenes and produces a likable character, making for an enjoyable film that is unfortunately not the kind the Academy often rewards. Many critics have remarked that his character is quite similar to Damon’s actual personality and therefore did not require much effort from the actor. Oscar voters will most likely not reward him for his work, considering the more physically demanding and emotionally tumultuous roles of other nominees.
The dark horse and pleasant surprise, if he should win, would be Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo” as the movie’s titular character, a blacklisted screenwriter during the height of the Cold War. Cranston’s portrayal of Trumbo is both likable, jarring, and truly a shock to the system. He is able to combine his comedic prowess and his dramatic capabilities to project a characterization of a pillar in the film industry.
Eddie Redmayne stars in “The Danish Girl” as Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Redmayne gives a fine portrayal of Elbe, drawing on emotional beats to convey a poignant love story. Politics may affect Redmayne’s chances for the award, as many would have preferred to see “Tangerine,” a major snub similarly dealing with transgender issues, nominated. Coupled with casting controversies and historical inaccuracies in the film, Redmayne will probably not see the Oscar this year in spite of his superb performance.
WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
SNUBBED: Jacob Tremblay, “Room”; Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”; Michael Keaton, “Spotlight”
Actress In A Leading Role
The breakout star of this year, Brie Larson, has this award in the bag. None of Larson’s competitors have received as many favorable reviews for their respective films, nor have any of them received as many awards this season, so none of them pose a threat to Larson. It goes without saying that these women’s performances are still equally strong.
Larson’s performance in “Room” is something for the books. She works well with her child costar, Jacob Tremblay, to create a purely personal and emotionally draining performance. Her role as Joy Newsome will indubitably be the staple and cornerstone of her career.
The nomination of Jennifer Lawrence’s “Joy” came as a surprise to the public, considering the unfavorable reviews and lackluster box office sales. Nevertheless, Lawrence’s acting is highly praiseworthy despite the film’s shortcomings and represents her fourth nomination from the Academy. To gauge the significance of this achievement, take Meryl Streep, who received her fourth nomination at the age of 33. Lawrence is 26.
After half a century of filmography, “45 Years” is Charlotte Rampling’s triumph and will go down as the defining film of her career, but will not prove enough to get her the coveted statuette. As a pleasant surprise nomination to the category, many of her fans are pleased with her nomination alone.
Saorise Ronan’s “Brooklyn” is simply a breath of fresh air. Ronan is able to capture the sensibilities of an Irish immigrant to America who finds herself in a torrid love triangle. She brings the viewers on a journey of growth which is commendable and greatly appreciated.
Cate Blanchett, a recent Oscar winner for 2013’s “Blue Jasmine,” will most likely not receive the award this year, despite her compelling performance in “Carol.” Most notably, the performance plays on the sensibilities of her costar, Rooney Mara (who was snubbed for this category). The women play to each other’s strengths and give performances that bring something anew from the viewer.
WILL WIN: Brie Larson, “Room”
SHOULD WIN: Brie Larson, “Room”
SNUBBED: Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Actor In A Supporting Role
Sylvester Stallone’s reprise of his legendary role as Rocky Balboa has earned extensive praise and respect from his peers and the industry. Stallone was previously nominated for the same character in 1977 for the first installment in the series and lost to Peter Finch. The Academy will most likely remedy this loss with an award this year, perhaps given to him out of sentiment, as many view his previous loss a consequence of Finch’s death before voting commenced. Stallone manages to incorporate comedy into drama to elevate this iconic character, but the award will surely be awarded with the first installment in mind.
The threat to Stallone’s receiving of the award lies with Mark Rylance, recent British Academy of Film and Television Arts best supporting actor winner. Rylance’s character in “Bridge of Spies” is a scene stealer, working in tandem with Tom Hanks. His performance possesses all the characteristics of an Oscar winner and it would be a shame if he loses due to Academy politics.
Tom Hardy, a popular runner-up to Stallone, made a startling transformation into a jilted huntsman with a hatred for Native Americans in “The Revenant.” The character’s dark psychology captivates audiences, and Hardy is able to portray the character to a tee, providing “The Revenant” not with a villain but with a sympathetic figure.
Mark Ruffalo and Christian Bale are the only male nominees whose movies have garnered best picture buzz, and their nominations are well deserved—both are powerful performances. Bale continues to deliver time and time again, this time in his role as Michael Burry in “The Big Short.” Ruffalo brings passionate delivery that helps bring the world of journalism alive on the screen in “Spotlight.”
WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
SHOULD WIN: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
SNUBBED: Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Actress In A Supporting Role
Undoubtedly the most competitive acting category of the night, this award could go to any and all of the nominees. Most notably, Kate Winslet and Alicia Vikander have already received awards for their efforts this year.
Although Vikander’s role in “The Danish Girl” does not quite constitute as a supporting role, she will likely win for her portrayal (however historically inaccurate) of Gerda Wegender. The film reflects the personality of Vikander more than it does her costar, Redmayne, and she unintentionally steals the whole film from him. Her performance was emotional and heart wrenching, and capturing the audience’s sympathy more than Lili does.
In contrast, Winslet’s role in “Steve Jobs” is explosive and powerful. Her chemistry with Fassbender is commendable, and it’s a real treat watching her transform into Jobs’ Polish assistant, Joanna, and help carry the film to a successful peak.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is a fantastic performer, and despite that her role is the best of the mediocre performances in “The Hateful Eight,” it is not Oscar-worthy in its own right. The film itself is entertaining and has a few merits, but besides being the only female character present throughout the film and her convincing portrayal of a female villain, she’s hardly a scene stealer. Her scenes with Samuel L. Jackson are a highlight, but not remarkable.
Rooney Mara’s role in “Carol” also fails to constitute a supporting role, and her chance for the golden statuette suffers in that regard. She is excellent in the film and has the ability to work with Blanchett and not be overpowered. The balance is pleasant to watch and keeps the viewer entranced in the film.
Rachel McAdams’ performance in “Spotlight” is beyond praise and expertly maneuvers her character’s reproaching genius, but, like Mara’s performance, won’t be enough to win her the Oscar.
WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
SHOULD WIN: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl;” Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
SNUBBED: Helen Mirren, “Trumbo”