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David Poland

By David Poland

15 Weeks To Oscar: The Tightest, Most Open Acting Races Ever?

This season, i have tried to stay out of the predicting circus tent as much as possible. Individual situations are individual stories. Gurus o’ Gold is Gurus o’ Gold. But with The Revenant debuting widely on Monday, The H8ful Eight rolling out already, and Joy to land sometimes after Thanksgiving, we’re almost there. So I guess it’s time for me to jump in with both feet.

Best Actress – Brie Larson and Cate Blanchett are in. Larson remains the favorite to win, locked in early in the tradition of Supporting Actress, but still working it hard. Next tier of likeliness include the compelling trailer remnants of Jennifer Lawrence in Joy and the coming-of-stardom of Saoirse Ronan (already nominated once before, for Atonement, eight long years ago).

So… two Oscar winners, one former nominee, and one previously unnominated actress favored to win.

Who gets the five spot?

Emily Blunt, Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Rampling, Lily Tomlin. Your guess is as good as anyone’s, really. At least as of this moment.

But I will say this… next year probably belongs to Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train, which she is now shooting, so no hard push, joy to come. The other three will not be in play next season. So figure it out. Lifetime achievement for the dramatic actress? Lifetime achievement for one of the funniest women of the last half century? Or in the year of the woman, a suffragette. All top of the line performances… which narrative will stick?

Best Actor – There are no locks in this category. I don’t care if you love them, I love them, or God loves them… no one is locked in yet. Closest to locked are Eddie Redmayne, Ian McKellen, and Michael Caine. But there is a real chance that one of them could fall out.

Pushing are Johnny Depp, whose film flopped, but has a huge following and Michael Fassbender is truly stupendous but the movie flopped and Universal needs to dig both the film and him out.

Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks and can’t be assumed to be all the way out… but he’s not the story of Bridge of Spies. Matt Damon gives a true movie star turn in the incredibly well-liked The Martian and could be swept in by the suction of love.

Will Smith is at his best in Concussion… but will the movie get him to the promised land? It’s not The Pursuit of Happyness… not a tearjerker. A different kind of hero. But he’s going to have to knock someone else out… and he’s not playing a boxer this time.

Still waiting to arrive are Leonardo DiCaprio, for whom the horse is being put before the cart (as often has happened), thought The Revenant is not clearly a film screaming Oscar so much as quality tough guy movie and Samuel L. Jackson, who Weinstein wants in lead for The H8ful Eight, but may well end up being seen as a supporting actor in an ensemble movie.

And my favorite new “dark horse” is Michael B. Jordan, whose turn as Adonis Creed could be the unexpected sensation of the holiday season, not only propelling Jordan to an unanticipated Oscar nomination, but effectively shutting down the Straight Outta Compton effort, like it or not. The Academy has not shown itself open to multiple “Black movies” and certainly not to multiple loud “Black movies.” Creed is not shy about bringing the urban flavor… but it is also a movie that is colorblind in a great way… never really mentioned… and really not a part of what the film is about.

That’s a very full boat. If you had a gun to my head tonight, I would say Redmayne, McKellen, Caine, Jordan, and either DiCaprio or Jackson (though their late dates really have nothing to do with their two performances). But I am not comfortable shouting that from the rooftops. New York and Los Angeles critics could influence things, though I would bet one will go with the lead of Son of Saul, which would be a loooooong reach for Academy members. Jackson could end up in Supporting and Leo could be in the wrong movie (made by brilliant filmmakers) that opens up a slot for someone like Damon or Hanks. Or Youth just doesn’t quite take as well as expected. Or Creed is just too loud for The Academy and all five nominees end up being precious nominees or winners.

There is little to do here to change things. McKellen is working his lanky tush off. Caine is not physically what he was, but I trust that Searchlight will play the lifetime achievement card for all it’s worth… and almost no one has had a better career. Right now, it looks like only The Martian, Creed, and The H8ful Eight have any chance at the $100m domestic level of success… or even $80m. Does the gross matter? Not specifically. But it’s the kind of shiny object that draws voter attention at the end of the year.

Best Supporting Actress – This is a weird category… small group, but very competitive.

There is a growing inevitability about Jane Fonda taking a slot here, so that make is Fonda, Vikander, Winslet, and Mara all but locked in.

And then what?

Elizabeth Banks is The Woman Of The Year. Terrific in Love & Mercy, but the vote would be for more than that.

Helen Mirren is Helen ‘f-ing” Mirren. She has a ton of evil fun with Hedda Hopper. Easy vote to make.

Is Jennifer Jason Leigh going to steal the show from the Other Hateful Seven? If so, the veteran actress with so much great work behind her could be propelled into this slot.

Joan Allen is excellent in Room… but not relentless buzz. Julie Walters is always great… but Brooklyn is going to have to become a serious Top 5 candidate if she is getting in here. Rachel McAdams is wonderful in Spotlight, but she is not the top of that stunning ensemble as the character is written.

Jessica Chastain is well loved by The Academy, but the character in The Martian is not significant enough to push her way in her, I don’t think. Marion Cotillard is sensational in MacBeth, but no one has seen it, no one is rushing to see it… not happening this year.

Best Supporting ActorSpotlight really needs a special statue that looks like the on they gave Disney for Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs… all five reporters and the two editors. But that’s not going to happen. (That was a freebie, BFCA… run with it!)

Mark Rylance is in. Probably wins.

After that… no one knows. No one can know.

Start with Keaton, Ruffalo, and Schreiber. All three are legit. (Others from the movie are too… but…)

How do they not give nominations to Benicio del Toro or Paul Dano with a straight face?

Idris Elba. Killer role, literally and figuratively.

That’s seven… but The Academy isn’t the BFCA.

Wait… Sylvester Stallone not only gives the best acting performance of his career since Rocky, but the movie is going to be a hit and it shoots straight to the heart, especially of those of us nostalgic about the original (not matter what our rational minds say). Gotta be in, right?

Did you say that Sam Jackson is really supporting? DAMN! Get those m-f-ing journalists of the m-f-ing Supporting Actor list!!!

DeNiro got his last nod playing a dad for David O. Russell.

And if they are really willing to give Jane Fonda a nomination for 4 minutes of screen time in one scene and a flash, then they watched Youth and could well fall in love with Harvey Keitel, who also happens to be fantastic in person… at least if he likes you (I’m told).

Eleven. Seven. Craps.

Two of these performances I haven’t seen. But nine I have and there isn’t a one of them that I would complain about if nominated.

And if you ask me my personal preference… I’m still at 7. I can’t make a list of the 5 I most prefer. Not without a lot of pain.

It would be horrible if none of the Spotlight group got nominated. But it could happen in a firestorm like this. People just assuming someone else is voting for them. I mean, how could they not get two slots, at least? But for me, Rylance, del Toro, Dano, and Elba are all four the kind of performances that win Best Supporting Actor, not just get nominated… lock in early. Fireworks. Spotlight is sensational… but not a fireworks show. But Stallone, Keitel, maybe DeNiro and Jackson… I mean… riches on riches. Toughest category of the acting categories to my eye.

For some reason I have been thinking about those pictures of the Best Actor and Best Actress standing together with their Oscars… same with Supporting.

Imagining Fonda and Stallone in one of those photos. That would be trippy as hell.

I have a feeling we won’t really have a strong handle on the full lists of 5 in these categories until after the nominees are announced. And even then…

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29 Responses to “15 Weeks To Oscar: The Tightest, Most Open Acting Races Ever?”

  1. eldrick says:

    Why would Michael B Jordan shut down Straight Outta Compton? The 4 possibilities ( really only 2, Jason Mitchell and Giamatti) who would be nominated from SOC would all be in supporting. If Jordan is lead, its not even same categories. This “there can only be one black film” shit has gotta stop. I know that is not your view of things, more a reading of the academy but still, if that is true, its hugely depressing.

  2. Daniella Isaacs says:

    It will be interesting to see if voters try to compensate for the fact that there were NO major nominations for Black actors last year and for the fact that SELMA was (arguably) snubbed. Perhaps there will be room for more than one Black-themed film this year and a better than average slate of Black actors this year. A lot worse things could happen than a slate that includes CREED and COMPTON, Jordan, Smith, AND Jackson. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  3. Lola says:

    Helen Mirren is campaigning for Weinstein’s Woman in Gold and Isabella Rossellini is campaigning for JOY.

    I really hope Charlotte Rampling makes it in this year because she is so overdue for her 1st nomination !!!!

  4. Glamourboy says:

    No love for Cranston as Trumbo? Actors love this guy. If he can make it to Malcolm in the Middle to Breaking Bad then getting into features in a big way….there’s hope for them as well. He has the kind of career all actors dream of. And he’s a nice guy.

    Haven’t seen the Charlotte Rampling movie…but overdue? Really? For what? She’s always been the smoldering look from the other side of the room rather than an amazing actress, although she’s done a ton of french films that languish on Netflix that no one has seen.

    Mark Rylance may give a great performance by their is no narrative there yet that makes me excited for him to win. Sam Jackson should campaign HARD in this category and win it. Everyone would love to see Sam Jackson with an Oscar.

  5. Gustavo says:

    “Mark Rylance may give a great performance by their is no narrative there yet that makes me excited for him to win. ”

    Is there a better narrative for winning an Oscar than giving a worthy performance? Jeez.

  6. Glamourboy says:

    Unfortunately, Gustavo, yes.

    The Oscars are littered with undeserving awards given to people for the wrong reason (Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8…everyone thought she was dying, Christopher Plummer, Beginners, lifetime achievement, Paul Newman, The Color of Money, had been denied previous Oscars, Martin Scorsese, The Departed…didn’t win for Raging Bull)….and plenty of deserving artists who didn’t win for lack of a better narrative. Is anyone really dying for a Mark Rylance acceptance speech?

  7. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Lately, Glamourboy, Oscars have been going to people who just simply deserved it–not all the time, but more and more. How about Forest Whitaker for LAST KING OF SCOTLAND? He won over Peter O’Toole who’d never won a competitive award and was clearly at his last rodeo. And, a Black actor had just taken best actor the year before (or was it two?), so it wasn’t a p.c. thing to give it to Whitaker either. They thought he was the best and they voted for him. Period. He deserved it and got it; the film itself wasn’t even that big a film. Rylance, for his part, is an actor’s actor. He’s done unsimulated sex on screen for God’s sake (“Intimacy”). What other major actor can say that? He has three Tony Awards, one, for a performance that’s already legendary in the theater “Jerusalem.” I think the Academy is at the point where they’re willing to give a guy an Oscar simply because he’s an amazing actor in a flawless performance. Hollywood folks knows who he is and he does impress them.

  8. Davey says:

    Black Mass flopped?

  9. Greg says:

    who is mark rylance?

    Also, Joan Allen. #teamjoanallen

  10. chris says:

    It’s not the size that counts but if people are going to keep using the size of Fonda’s role as some kind of marker, at least get it right: It’s three scenes (or, in your parlance, two scenes and a flash).

  11. Chris L. says:

    I hope Glamourboy someday gets to see Under the Sand, in which Rampling is utterly heartbreaking (and was overlooked). But what do I know, I also thought Plummer was deserving for Beginners. (Both were quiet, pensive performances, to be sure. Yet so much was happening behind the eyes.)

    Sometimes the older folks can really still act, and aren’t just being humored for time served.

  12. John says:

    Best Actor is tough. Will AMPAS look past the flop of Steve Jobs to nominate Fassbender (who will do zero campaigning)? I don’t think 2 old guys get in for Actor, maybe one. Probably McKellan over Caine since he’s the one campaigning. Damon is in. Will Smith? Depends on the response of the film. If it gets good reviews and does ok, he gets in. That leaves one slot. Probably either Leo or Cranston who the actors love (remember all those Emmy awards? Didn’t happen by accident). And it’s a movie about Hollywood. Like last year’s Best Actor race, not enough rooms at the Inn. FINAL: Cranston, Damon, Fassbender, McKellan, Smith.

  13. John says:

    Sup Actor: I’d love to see Dano get in and he might. Rylance is in. I hear Tom Hardy is the best thing in Revenant, but like Fassbender, will actively not campaign. Would love to see Benicio get in but he won’t. Ruffalo is in. Idris Elba won’t get in bc it was Netflix…and not sure how AMPAS feels about that just yet. Stallone gets in. FINAL: Dano, Hardy, Ruffalo, Rylance, Stallone.

  14. Danny says:

    Pleased to read you think Ian McKellen is a near lock for a nomination. Everywhere else he seems listed as an outside chance at best if mentioned at all. I hope you have the right idea. The film must have appealed well to a major portion of the Academy this summer, and he is diligently making the rounds.

  15. Franco says:

    Bryan Cranston and Tom Hardy, gave Oscar Caliber Work, and deserve to be in the running NO QUESTION.

  16. Pete says:

    I am surprised that Kirstin Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria did not merit a mention.

  17. Sam E. says:

    Neal Huff is the only person who should get a supporting nom from Spotlight.

  18. Glamourboy says:

    My friend caught a screening of The Revenant and called it a bullseye…better than Birdman and says that Leo gives a career defining performance.

  19. Telemachos says:

    THE REVENANT is amazing technically, but left me a bit cold. I don’t think Inarritu nailed the ending either.

    DiCaprio is good but it’s a very physical performance with a lot of grunting, screaming, breathing, etc that, like the movie, left me impressed with his dedication but didn’t engage me emotionally.

  20. Sam E. says:


    ‘Biggest stage actor in the world comes to hollywood in a spielberg production’ isn’t a story?

  21. Sam Lowry says:

    Stallone has SA locked up. Everyone else can forget it.

  22. Glamourboy says:

    Sam E, stage actors perform in films all the time. It isn’t news or even an interesting narrative. Rylance has already had a career in film. If he had been discovered in the theater world and thrown into his first film in a leading role…that would have been news.

  23. Daniella Isaacs says:

    There’s ever bit as much of a narrative for Rylance–legendary stage actor, heretofore under-appreciated in film, finally gets a showy role in a big movie–as there was for J.K. Simmons last year. In that case it was under-appreciated TV actor finally gets showy role in (not so) big film. Trade out “TV” for “stage” and it’s pretty similar, except that Rylance is, if anything even more respected by actors than Simmons.

  24. William Byrd says:

    Wow. I’m generally right there with you, Mr Poland. But you are losing me and then some with a half-dozen predictions here — none worse than your out-of-touch-with-reality predictions around Apollo Creed. Put down the pipe.

  25. Glamourboy says:

    Daniella, have to disagree. Rylance is a stage actor…mostly a British stage actor. Stage cred means pretty much zero to film people otherwise Cherry Jones would have Meryl Streep’s career. The Oscars are the local ball game. Simmons was a local TV and film journeyman. He did blockbusters (Spiderman) and he did a multitude of TV shows. He’s was the ultimate character actor. That is a career that Oscar voters understand (again, the majority of SAG and Oscar voters in the acting field are pursuing film and TV roles…not theater. Theater may have meant something when Laurence Oliver was doing Hamlet…and certainly Kenneth Branagh had some of that shimmer…but not so much anymore. A legendary stage actor…what have you seen him perform in? I saw the art film where he got jacked off on camera….but other than that….nothing.

  26. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Glamourboy, you’re just digging yourself in deeper and deeper. Do you know how many “British stage actor” have won or come close to winning Oscars? Maggie Smith and Glenda Jackson were bascially “British stage actors” until they won their first Oscars. And indeed, I’ve seen Rylance on the AMERICAN (Broadway) stage twice: “Jerusalem,” and “Boeing Boeing.” Don’t let your ignorance about the theater stand as proof that Rylance is a nobody. Seriously. By the way, in 2001 “British stage actor” (for the most part) Jim Broadbent won Best Supporting Actor for IRIS–not that long ago. I could come up with a half dozen other analogies to Rylance, but I’m done debating this.

  27. Glamourboy says:

    Daniella…I am not saying it has never happened. All I am saying is that Rylance is hardly a household name and him winning an Oscar wouldn’t mean much to most people. Question…how does one come CLOSE to winning an Oscar? Do you have an inside track to the votes?

  28. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Pretty much everyone (Los Vegas oddsmakers, etc.) thought Ian McKellen would win for GODS AND MONSTERS and he didn’t. There are other examples if I wanted to go back and check.

  29. Mark D says:

    Why is there almost no mention anywhere for Tom Hardy in Legend? Talk about a tour de force. He’s well respected in Hollywood and playing a dual role is Oscar bait.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon