- Bryan Cranston for TRUMBO as Dalton Trumbo, a real life Oscar Winning Screenwriter who was blacklisted from Hollywood for his opinions.
- Matt Damon for THE MARTIAN as Mark Watney, a spaceman stranded on Mars who uses his botany skills to survive.
- Leonardo Dicaprio for THE REVENANT as Hugh Glass, a real life fur trader drags himself across the wilderness to avenge his son.
- Michael Fassbender for STEVE JOBS as Steve Jobs, a brilliant but arrogant co-founder of Apple who loses his job as CEO, founded another company and was rehired over the course of three pitches.
- Eddie Redmayne for THE DANISH GIRL, Einar Wegener, an artist who undergoes the first successful sex change operation to become Lili Elbe.
Who Will Win?
Looks like Leonardo Dicaprio’s “give me that damn Oscar” campaign is finally paying off.
And a perfect role to get it. As far from his pretty boy “Dicraprio” years, Dicaprio’s Glass looks like someone who has spent years learning to survive in the wild. Plus, there was a lot of hell he had to go through for this performance, from swimming in a freezing lake to eating a real buffalo heart. As a bonus for northerners, he learned an aboriginal language.
On top of that, Dicaprio has to spend most of the film dragging his body across the unforgiving wilderness. He has to keep the audience engaged throughout with little to no dialogue. He pulls it off, capturing all his thirst for vengeance on his face and every amount of pain in his body. When he tries to drink water, you can feel the sting he feels in his neck.
And so, he will return to the Academy in glory with the Revenant.
- Cate Blanchett for CAROL as Carol Aird, a 1950s unhappy housewife who begins an affair with a convenience store clerk.
- Brie Larson for ROOM as Jack’s Mother, a woman released after 5 years abducted and imprisoned in a shack, only to have to cope with PTSD.
- Jennifer Lawrence for JOY as Joy Mangano, the real life inventor of the Miracle Mop dealing with a lot of debt and a batshit crazy family.
- Charlotte Rampling for 45 YEARS as Kate Mercer, a happily married former teach who finds out a shocking secret about her husband (Tom Courtenay) after his long lost love’s corpse is finally found.
- Saoirse Ronan for BROOKLYN as Eilis, an Irish girl who immigrates to New York to provide for her family.
Who Will Win?
It’s Brie Larson all the way for Room. She has proved herself a great actress with her performance as supervisor of a residential treatment facility for troubled youths in the underrated Short Term 12. She does it again with this devastating performance. In the scenes trapped in a shack, she conveys a mother trying to maintain a normal life for the sake of her son, while living in dread of her abductor. You can see what a nightmare it is to keep all the trauma within. You pray for her escape plan to work.
But she truly shines when the Mother does escape. Larson reminds us that she may be free physically, but internally she’s still imprisoned by trauma. She has difficulty finding trust in people, not helped by the media frenzy. You can see how hard it is to convey her feelings to her mother. We follow her on her journey of recovery, always with hope on the horizon.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
- Christian Bale for THE BIG SHORT, as Michael Burry, a real life, socially awkward hedge fund manager who predicted the financial collapse of 2008.
- Tom Hardy for THE REVENANT, as Fitzgerald, the target of Hugh Glass’s vengeance after he buried Glass alive and killed Glass’ son.
- Mark Ruffalo for SPOTLIGHT as Mike Rezendes, a real life, relentless Boston Globe reporter who helped expose the coverup of Catholic Priest molesting children.
- Mark Rylance for BRIDGE OF SPIES as Rudolf Abel, an Irish gentleman and Soviet spy who becomes a bargaining chip for two Americans lives.
- Sylvester Stallone for CREED as Rocky Balboa, an aged legend who trains Apollo Creed’s son Adonis(Michael P. Jordan), and then has to battle cancer.
Who Will Win?
I’m going to have to talk about the controversy of the acting categories being all white. There was consideration for Idris Elba to be nominated for his performance as the head of a militia in Beasts of No Nation. Though Elba is a great actor, I can’t judge since I haven’t seen it yet. There was prejudice behind the omission. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think it’s a prejudice against race. I think it’s a prejudice against Netflix. I think one of the reasons it was left out is because it was released on Netflix and at the Theatre at the same time. Sure, there are two Netflix documentaries nominated for best documentary, but the academy considers documentaries the exception not the rule. They are still afraid of including steaming media amongst the main categories, regarding it more as television than movies.
I do think Benicio Del Toro should have been nominated for his role in Sicario. In his portrayal of a morally flexible DEA Agent, Del Toro embodies the corrupt soul of the war on drugs. Having lost his family to drug trade, this agent is willing to sink to any low to catch drug lords. Which leads to an intense confrontation between him and a drug lord during a family dinner.
But let’s focus on the nominees we do have. And the clear winner is Stallone fir his return to his role of the Italian Stallion in Creed. This film makes Rocky’s journey come full circle from boxer to trainer. Though he is still the underdog we know and live, Stallone portrays him as a man who has learned a lot from his years in the ring and has no qualms about going back in the ring.
Stallone has been parodied for his limited acting, his beefcake action films and endless mumbling. Even I like to impersonate him with incoherent mumbling. But he shines whenever he plays Rocky Balboa. He not only brings an everyman quality to the character, but also brings out a feeling of vulnerability and sweetness underneath the muscles. He still brings this out in this film, where his character has returned to his roots of Philadelphia and maintains a simple living as an Italian restaurant owner.
That is until Adonis Creed moves to Philadelphia. Though he lives the high life in LA, Adonis wants to follow in his father’s footsteps in the rings and who better to train him than his father’s rival turned friend Rocky. Rocky’s obviously hesitant considering what happened to Adonis’ father Apollo, but “Donny” convinces him. It’s a joy to see Rocky using previous training techniques from the earlier films, especially the chicken chase from Rocky 2.
But Stallone’s performance shines at Rocky’s lowest point. Rocky learns he has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Recalling the suffering Adrian went through during chemotherapy, only to die of ovarian cancer, Rocky refuses any treatment. Donny tries to convince him to seek treatment, but Rocky would rather go out in quiet dignity. These scenes provide a lot of moral complexity. You can understand where both sides are coming from, which makes it difficult who is more right?
I won’t reveal where this storyline goes, but it’s pretty powerful.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
- Jennifer Jason Leigh for THE HATEFUL EIGHT as Daisy Domergue, a racist, murderous criminal chained to bounty hunter (Kurt Russell)
- Rooney Mara for CAROL as Therese, a convenience store clerk and aspiring photographer who falls for a housewife
- Rachel McAdams for SPOTLIGHT as Sacha Pfeiffer, a real life Boston Globe reporter who helped expose the coverup of Catholic Priest molesting children.
- Alicia Vikander for THE DANISH GIRL as Gerda Wegender, Einar’s wife and fellow whose artwork unintentionally inspires her husband’s transgender self. Now she’s left with the dilemma of whether or now she can love the same person as Lili.
- Kate Winslet for STEVE JOBS as Joana Hoffman, Steve Jobs’ long suffering but loyal assistant stuck with the difficult job of reigning Jobs in.
Who Will Win?
Unlike previous years, this category won’t be so easy to predict. At first, the choice is Kate Winslet since she won the golden globe. But then there were wins for rising star Alicia Vikander for both The Danish Girl and her sci-fi debut Ex Machina. I suspect this will be a one on one between Mara and Vikander. Let’s look at all two performances before we decide.
Steve Jobs divides itself by three pitches for Apple 2, next and the iMac computer. They are also different moments in Jobs life; first when he stepping up the company he’s founded, second when he’s fired from Apple and trying to restart his life and finally when he’s rehired as CEO. A man notorious for being impossible to work with, Steve Jobs was fortunate to have Joanna Hoffman by his side. As his assistant, Hoffman always made sure his impossible demands are met and the pitches went as planned. Despite her professionalism and loyalty, Hoffman was no pushover. She often calls him out on his overbearing demands, demanding him to cool it. Throughout the film, Hoffman tries to get Jobs to acknowledge his daughter’s existence.
Winslet makes Hoffman the audience surrogate, trying to find out what goes on in Jobs’ head. She delivers a good performance, but her accent is a bit off. Besides, she’s already won the Best Actress Oscar for The Reader. With exceptions to Ingrid Bergman, Maggie Smith, Jack Nicholson and Gene Hackman, the Oscars never award an actor for supporting role after he/she already won for a lead role. Usually it’s the other way around.
This award usually goes to two types of actresses: well established actresses and up and comers. The Latter are usually young actresses who grabbed the audience’s attention with one amazing performance. Examples include Lupita Nyong’o(12 Years a Slave) and Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) . This year’s up and comer is Alicia Vikander. I’ve first seen her at TIFF via the surprisingly engaging A Royal Affair. Though she’s been acting since 2007, she didn’t really hit it big until this year playing an android in Ex Machina. Through last year, her star’s been soaring not only with Ex Machina but also Testament of Youth and The Man from UNCLE.
And then we have The Danish Girl, where she plays real life artist Gerda Wegender, a fellow kindred spirit of Einar. While this role usually consists of the wife supporting the male lead throughout the film, Gerda is more her own woman. The film establishes her as a star of the art world, a independent woman who made her own career. In fact, it’s she who approaches the shy Einar.
When she asks Einar to model a dress for her, we see two stories occurring; Gerda finding her artistic identity and Einar finding his transgender identity. At first, dressing Einar in a dress and naming him Lily is all fun and games. But when Lily forms into her own person, an extra dimension adds to Gerda’s performance.
Here we see another side to the transgender issue; the conflicted emotions of loved ones. On one hand, she wants be supportive for her husband, but she feels she’s losing him to Lily. When Lily admits there’s little of Einer left, Gerda is understandably devastated and confused. Add the 1920s mindset of transgender and you’ve got plenty of conflicting emotions. Vikander is able to say all of this through her facial expressions.
With all of this in mind, I’m predicting Alicia Vikander as this year’s winner.