If you had told me a year ago, that I would be incredibly shocked and upset by the fact that the Academy would fail to nominate Tom Hanks for lead actor, I would have laughed right at your face. Hanks has always been somewhat of a serviceable, but uninteresting actor in my mind. It had probably a lot to do with my dislike for Forrest Gump. However, I’ve come to warm up a little bit to Hanks as the years have gone by and I’ve seen more of his movies. My ultimate change of faith, though, was his tremendous performance in Captain Phillips; such a powerful performance, by such a beloved actor, in such a well-received movie, that it was almost a lock for a nomination. Had Hanks been on this list, then he would have gotten my vote.
Alas, he is not, but that doesn’t mean that I will have too much trouble landing on another actor to champion. It’s pretty clear to me that the biggest achievement in the category is the intensity of Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. The more I think about it, Solomon Northup is an incredibly difficult character. The script certainly doesn’t make him any favors by giving him very pompous dialogue and putting him in incredibly extreme situations, in which he must pretty much put into words the internal trouble of survival vs. righteousness. Just looking at the trailers made me a little nervous of whether the performance would work, but the result was pretty fantastic, and I think we have Ejiofor to thank for that.
The rest of the nominees are also a pretty good bunch. I think the Hanks snub (and the lack of Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, who in an ideal world would win the Oscar) made me look at this category as disappointingly weak, but I’m actually a big fan of three of the nominees. Beyond Ejiofor, I’m also really fond of Bruce Dern’s slowburn work in Nebraska and Matthew McConaughey’s blend of physical trasnformation and use of his public persona in Dallas Buyers Club. I also can’t argue too much against Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor I usually find underwhelming, but who really went all the way for The Wolf of Wall Street, which is a movie I don’t like, but not due to DiCaprio. One thing is true, though, Christian Bale has absolutely nothing to do being cited as one of the best five actors of the year for American Hustle. That nomination is, indeed, ridiculous.
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
My Pick: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)