It’s that time of the year again. With the Oscar Nominations already announced, it’s come time for me to start doing some predictions of who might win. I know the internet is full of blogs and sites of people fighting over who will take the meaningless golden statue, and so many people wondering who might win by speculating if Academy Member number 587 liked Philomena better than Nebraska gets boring fairly quickly. I decided to do something a little different this year. I will predict the winners, but I would rather approach the races by wondering if the list is representative of the movie year in that particular discipline, and what I would vote for if I were an Academy Member.
As far as the Supporting Actor category goes, everyone knows Jared Leto is little more than assured to win for his performance as a transgender man diagnosed with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. He has pretty much steamrolled the awards season, by winning prizes from virtually every critics group, as well as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. As if we needed further indication of Leto’s future win, the Academy really showed the love for Dallas Buyers Club by giving it seven nominations, including Best Picture and such surprising categories as Film Editing. The question for me is not whether Leto is deserving of the Oscar, because as irritating and eye-rolling as I find him as a celebrity (he is the official personification of pretension, no?), the man is actually really good in the movie. I wouldn’t vote for him to win the Oscar, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not deserved. My real problem with this category is that he has become an obvious steamroller in a category full of interesting performances.
Does his work really stand out as the far-away best Supporting Actor performance in the year that gave us James Gandolfini’s fantastic and tender farewell performance in Enough Said, James Franco pitch-perfect hilarity in Spring Breakers, and naturalistic revelations like John Gallagher Jr. and Keith Stanfield in Short Term 12? Of course not, and those performances weren’t even nominated. Out of the nominees, it is particularly gratifying to see Barkhad Abdi, a previously completely unknown actor, be recognized for what is undoubtedly a revelatory performance in Captain Phillips. It’s also wonderful to see Michael Fassbender, one of the most exciting actors working right now, finally be nominated for an Oscar. His talent is basically a given at this point, but in 12 Years a Slave, he came out with one of the most terrifyingly humane villains I have ever seen. As despicable and intensely evil as his Mr. Epps is, his internal struggle is always present, daring us to relate with such a monster. The image of him casually resting his arm on the head of a child slave simply can’t leave my head. Then you have Bradley Cooper, who does what I think is the best work of his carrer in American Hustle, and Jonah Hill who is funny and integral to The Wolf of Wall Street, even if I don’t love the performance. With such a good list, it’s disappointing that there isn’t a real race going on.
So basically, Leto is good (transformative and powerful in come of his last scenes), but I don’t find it to be as undeniably brilliant as, say, Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men or Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, who also monopolized awards back in their respective years. I little more spreading of the wealth could have put a spotlight on some other cool dudes.
Will Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
My Vote: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)