We’re less than two weeks away from the 86th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by comedienne and Emmy-winning daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres. The 2014 awards season has been one of the most nail-biting in recent memory.
Did 12 Years a Slave peek too soon? Will Gravity pull off a major upset victory for best picture over perceived frontrunners 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle? Will Amy Adams snag best actress over the seemingly unstoppable Cate Blanchett? Has Leonardo DiCaprio’s year finally arrived?
For the past two weeks, Moviegoers bloggers Mack Bates and Tom Fuchs have cast their votes for who they would vote for this year in the supporting actor and supporting actress races, the original screenplay and adapted screenplay races, and in the best director and best animated feature races. This week, they will cast their vote for best actor and best actress.
Christian Bale for American Hustle
Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Mack’s Pick: British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor richly deserves to win for his stoic, yet quietly powerful turn as Solomon Northup, a free, educated black man from the North who was kidnapped and endured 12 hellish years of slavery in director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. His chief rival, Matthew McConaughey, in the midst of a major career overhaul and renaissance, richly deserves to win as well. McConaughey has won the lion’s share of hardware for his truly transformative turn as a HIV-positive Texan in the 1980s in Dallas Buyers Club. There’s never been a tie in the best actor category in the 86-year history of the Oscars; in a perfect world, there would be this year between Ejiofor and McConaughey. That said, I’d cast my vote for Ejiofor.
Tom's pick: First and foremost, let's note that this category in particular this year is an absolute bloodbath. There's not an undeserving performance amongst them (while I don't care much for American Hustle, Christian Bale is doing all the heavy lifting that results in any audience emotional investment there) and the majority of my favorite performances of the year aren't even included. With that out of the way, I have to go with Leonardo DiCaprio's turn in Wolf of Wall Street – he's an absolute revelation as the amoral Jordan Belfort, unveiling comedic chops I didn't even consider that DiCaprio contained. Between the spectacular “Lemmon Quaaludes” sequence and his astonishing resignation speech, I'm going with both quality and quantity here, as this is certainly the most performance of any actor nominated here.
Will win: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. Tom was lukewarm on the film overall, but McConaughey is in the midst of a massive career resurgence and delivers fantastic work alongside Jared Leto.
Dude, You Were Shafted: Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station, Robert Redford for All is Lost, Joaquin Phoenix for Her and Forest Whitaker for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Amy Adams for American Hustle
Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Judi Dench for Philomena
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County
Mack’s Pick: The Academy, in an utter lack of clarity, gave Meryl Steep an Oscar for The Iron Lady (2011) of all films. So she won’t win again until she’s in her 80s. Judi Dench won’t win for her flawless turn in Philomena either. Gravity is thought as more of a filmmaking achievement than an actors’ showcase, so that rules former best actress champ Bullock (2009’s The Blind Side) out. So that leaves us Adams, playing a sexy Brit caught up in the FBI’s ABSCAM sting of the 1970s in American Hustle, and Blanchett, the perceived favorite for her universally praised turn as a former New York City socialite slowly unraveling before mesmerized audiences’ eyes in Blue Jasmine. The competition is fierce: Adams is flat-out sensational in American Hustle. She’ll win her Oscar, all right, but not for Hustle, I’m afraid. The Oscar (and my vote) will go to Blanchett for her hypnotic turn as a woman in emotional freefall in Blue Jasmine. It’s a grand, actor’s actor performance that people will be marveling at for years. It marked her triumphant return to the big screen after a six-year, self-imposed hiatus to concentrate on theater work primarily in her native Australia. It’s been 37 years since Diane Keaton became the first and only woman to win the best actress Oscar for her role in a Woody Allen film, 1977’s Annie Hall. And Blanchett has won practically every best actress prize leading up to Oscar night. It’s Oscar night’s one sure thing.
Tom's pick: There's a handful of very worthy performances in this category (Amy Adams is the standout in American Hustle and Sandra Bullock in Gravity), but there's really no doubt who this award is going to this year. Cate Blanchett is given one of Woody Allen's meatiest characters in years (probably even decades, to be honest) and absolutely crushes Jasmine's slow-burn nervous breakdown throughout the film. She's front and center nearly every moment of the film, and is mesmerizing the entire time.
Will win: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Gurrl, You Were Shafted: Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Brie Larson for Short Term 12, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks, Shailene Woodley for The Spectacular Now, Scarlett Johansson for Her, Brie Larson for Short Term 12, Amy Seimetz for Upstream Color and Julie Delpy for Before Midnight