Now that we’ve got the technical and below the line categories finished up, it’s time to get to the fun part. The acting races have been incredibly unreliable this year with a few exceptions. Unfortunately, Disney distributed films will not have a strong showing at these awards, barring some enormous surprises. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone pops up, but regardless, here are my predictions at the rest of the races.
Quick note before we start. One of the big unknowns about the actress races is the status of both Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara. The Golden Globes nominated both of them in Lead Actress Drama, while the Screen Actors Guild nominated both in Supporting. It’ll be interesting to see where they land in the Oscars, but they still have a good chance either way. Due to the confusion, I’ve included them on each prediction.
Best Supporting Actress
- Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
- Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina/The Danish Girl
- Rooney Mara – Carol
- Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
- Helen Mirren – Trumbo
- Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
- Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy
- Jane Fonda – Youth
- Kirsten Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
- Julie Walters – Brooklyn
With the confusion regarding Mara and Vikander, the lock here is Kate Winslet. She did a strong job in “Steve Jobs” and even won the Golden Globe in supporting. That said, while I wouldn’t predict her to win the Oscar, she’s an obvious choice to for the nomination. I will also go far enough to predict that Alicia Vikander will get nominated in supporting, but I’m unsure which film she’ll get the nod for. If the Academy decides that The Danish Girl is Lead, I still think she finds room in the race for Ex Machina.
I do believe that Mara will pull off a nomination in Supporting, despite the fact she is a clear lead in the film. The Weinstein’s have pushed her in Supporting, and I think her camp realizes that if she gets a nod, she could potentially win. After all, she already picked up the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival over her co-star Cate Blanchett.
On the Bubble:
Things have not been trending upward for “Spotlight” and if that negative trend continues, McAdams may be a victim as well. I think it would be absurd if the film does not get a single acting nomination, and she has the least competition in her field which puts her in the drivers seat. Helen Mirren has been doing incredibly well on the circuit, and I wonder if her popularity will make up for her miss for “Hitchcock” a few years ago. Her role is less divisive than others and she could get a strong push from the British delegation.
I’m a fan of “The Hateful Eight” and Jennifer Jason Leigh is very good as Daisy Domergue. However, her role is very divisive, and women are likely not going to be a fan of supporting a character who is beaten and knocked unconscious for nearly the entire movie. The violence against women aspect will certainly not bring supporters into the fold. Anyone looking for an alternative should be looking at Elizabeth Banks in “Love & Mercy.” Banks really elevated her role from a relatively flat character. It’s a great performance that has gone surprisingly unrewarded. If Mara does end up in lead, I think she could find her way into the race.
Jane Fonda has also grabbed rave reviews from “Youth.” I have not seen the film, but from those I’ve talked to, it seems to be premised on a single scene. This could be enough, but I’m not sure. If they want to reward a veteran, they’re more likely to nominate Julie Walters, who is still winless despite two nominations and a decade of strong turns as Molly Weasley. Kirsten Stewart has also received some notices for her work, and it could pay off here. I think it is unlikely, but obviously perception around the actress is shifting due to her solid indie work.
Best Lead Actress
- Brie Larson – Room
- Saorise Ronan – Brooklyn
- Cate Blanchett – Carol
- Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
- Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
- Rooney Mara – Carol
- Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
- Helen Mirren – The Woman in Gold
- Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
- Maggie Smith – The Lady in the Van
Despite the confusion, there are still three clear leads that will show up on Thursday morning. Those leads are Brie Larson, Saorise Ronan, and Cate Blanchett. It really looks like a showdown between the two young actresses, but Blanchett could pull off a win based off a split vote. Larson has the more complex role, but Ronan breathes life into a fairly simple story with sweet emotional beats. It is nice to see the contemporaries of Jennifer Lawrence begin to emerge as true competition. It’ll be an interesting run for the group. Blanchett’s nomination here will likely be her reward, with her needing to prove something extra special to get a 3rd statue (or get close to 20 nominations).
On the Bubble
This is the territory where Mara and Vikander will be in the lead discussion. I think if each is seen as a lead, they both make the cut, but Mara is risking more due to her co-star in Blanchett. The last time two women were nominated in lead from the same movie was “Thelma & Louise” at the 1991 Oscars. The person who may benefit the most from that split would be Jennifer Lawrence, who feels like a very tentative five. Her film is the weakest, and after seeing Lawrence appear in two similar films from David O. Russell, voters might look for someone new. The Globe was a nice prize though.
Three veteran actresses are jockeying for a nomination as well. Charlotte Rampling has the best performance with “45 Years,” but Mirren has the backing of the Weinsteins in her film. In this case, the “Trumbo” nomination becomes slightly more likely if voters choose to reward her simply for the sake of rewarding her. At the same time, it siphons votes so she could go home empty handed. Maggie Smith would also be seeking her third win, but her first nomination since “Gosford Park.” Still, she hasn’t been lead since 1979.
Finally, Charlize Theron’s case comes down to the fact that she is the star of a presumptive nominee. Weirder things have happened, and she is truly the only chance for an acting nomination for the film. She was very good as Furiosa, and would be similar to Sandra Bullock’s nomination for “Gravity.” Theron has more competition, but her angle is very similiar. With the split votes for veteran actresses, or Lawrence fatigue, Theron’s path could be easier than many are predicting.
Best Supporting Actor
- Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
- Christian Bale – The Big Short
- Idris Elba – Beast of No Nation
- Sylvester Stallone – Creed
- Jacob Tremblay – Room
- Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
- Michael Keaton – Spotlight
- Benecio Del Toro – Sicario
- Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
- Tom Hardy – The Revenant
This category is so stacked it’s absurd. In most years, the 1 through 10 would be in a position to win, let alone fight off each other for a nomination. Even so, three have found their way to the top. Mark Rylance already won the BFCA award, and also got nominated for BAFTA, SAG, and the Globe. In a year of inconsistency, he has been level. The only other actor to pull off the feat was Christian Bale, but two of his nominations came in Best Actor. Regardless, a supporting campaign has been chugging along for a while. Idris Elba missed the critics, but got SAG, BAFTA, and the Globe. He has a showy role, and Netflix really wants its first acting nomination at the Oscars.
On the bubble:
Again this category is so deep, that Globe nominee Paul Dano didn’t even make my top 10. He’s excellent, but I don’t see it happening. Simply put, others have more support. Sylvester Stallone may have already peaked with the Globe win, but the story of his nomination would be really hard to ignore. It’s been 40 years since “Rocky” and while he may have been in danger of self-parody at times, “Creed” proved he still has it. Jacob Tremblay also has the luck of precedent on his side. Child actors often get placed in supporting, regardless of whether or not they are actually a lead in their film. Tremblay is a lead masquerading as supporting, and one has to wonder if A-24 would have switched direction if they knew the category would be as deep as it is.
The real question is does someone from “Spotlight” get in, or do they all cannibalize votes? It reminds me of “Django Unchained,” where Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio siphoned so many votes from each other that they both got left out in favor of Waltz, who went on to win. Ruffalo should get through, but Keaton, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci are all so good that they’ve got different people in each of their corners. Keaton and Ruffalo could both get through too, but that feels unlikely. Right now, I think they both get left out with the depth of the field.
Del Toro was my favorite performance of the year, but it’ll be difficult to get through here. The PGA likes the film, and he’s the best chance at an acting nomination. Michael Shannon got a lot of precursor love, but I don’t know how many people saw his movie. Still, with the BFCA, SAG and Globe nominations, someone is clearly watching. It feels like others were better, but consistency could win out. Finally, Hardy was the headliner in “Mad Max,” and with “The Revenant,” many think he is as good as he has always been. He’s had a great year, and with everyone watching the film for DiCaprio he could ride his coattails in for a nomination against stiff competition. It worked for Jonah Hill.
Best Lead Actor
- Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
- Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
- Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
- Matt Damon – The Martian
- Michael B. Jordan – Creed
- Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
- Johnny Depp – Black Mass
- Ian McKellen – Mr. Holmes
- Steve Carrell – The Big Short
- Will Smith – Concussion
Let’s be clear: this race has been over for weeks. Leo may not actually be the best performance of the year, but this is his. The march toward the coronation continues. I think Cranston is a go as well, especially after scoring with BFCA, SAG, BAFTA, and the Globes. If anyone would pull an upset, it would be Cranston. This would be his first Oscar nomination, prepping him in a big way for the next time he gets nominated.
On the bubble:
Again, deep category but some actors peaked a little early in the race. I think Fassbender is in, even with support in the film wavering. He is electric as Steve Jobs, and what has hurt him more than anything was Ashton Kutcher’s version (namely hurt the box office). Matt Damon missing even a few nominations is staggering to me, because after the first ten minutes, he’s doing a funnier version of “Castaway” on Mars. Still, not everyone has loved his performance, and the cutbacks to Earth make it so he doesn’t have to carry the entire load of the film on his own. My spoiler here is Michael B. Jordan. There are certainly other actors who could claim this spot, but I feel like his performance was nuanced and passionate, making for a deadly one-two combination. If Stallone gets in, Jordan has a shot as well.
This would leave last year’s winner, Eddie Redmayne, on the outside looking in. I was not really impressed this time around, and feel like he’s been a little overexposed in the last year. He campaigned hard for “Theory of Everything.” Maybe fatigue sets in? I would say he’s in the worst of the films up for consideration, but that honor goes to Johnny Depp. While some touted it as “the comeback,” he still falls into some of the traditional Depp patterns. It’s a fine performance, but with ads already starting up for the next Alice film, it seems like he hasn’t learned what people want to see him in.
Ian McKellen represents the “Helen Mirren” vote on the actor side. Unlike Mirren, he has not been as prominent in films in the lat decade, instead using “X-Men” and J.R.R. Tolkien films as a supplement to “escape” his considerable talent on the stage. By donning the visage of an elderly Sherlock Holmes, McKellen reminds us why we love to watch him on the big screen. Steve Carrell has also been hard at work making himself visible for the second year in a row. His character in “The Big Short” is less transformative than “Foxcatcher” so it might be difficult for him to get in. Unfortunately for Will Smith, it appears that he may have peaked too early with the reviews, and while he got the Globe nomination, it looks like a fluke compared to his competition.
This year is unique, especially due to the fact that there won’t be many films that score multiple nominations in acting. Rather than having powerhouse acting displays like in “Silver Linings Playbook” or even something along the level of “The Master,” most films would top out at 2 nominations. It’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the races as they move forward. From the Disney/Universal perspective, there should be a nomination coming for “Bridge of Spies” and two on the way for “Steve Jobs.”