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Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2014 Best Actor Nominees

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 27, 2013 2:45 PM
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Long Shots

Michael B. Jordan - "Fruitvale"
The Best Actor category tends to be the realm of the A-list, but it's always gratifying when a rising star sneaks in among the more established names, and this year, one to keep an eye on is Michael B. Jordan. A veteran of TV fare such as "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights," he impressed last year in "Chronicle," and at Sundance this year, was one of the breakout stars thanks to his leading role in "Fruitvale." Ryan Coogler's film follows the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Jordan), a once-troubled young Oakland man trying to put his life on the right track, who is killed by a police officer in the early hours of New Year's Day. And by all accounts, the 26-year-old actor gives a star-making turn. Our hunch is that he may struggle to overcome his better-known competition, but if the film builds enough momentum, he might well follow it.

Colin Firth - "The Railway Man"
After two nominations in two years, and winning the Oscar the second time around, Colin Firth has sat the last couple of awards seasons out -- his part in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," the only new film of his released in that time period, unfortunately failed to get any traction. But the British actor has another strong role on the way in the shape of "The Railway Man.' Firth plays Eric Lomax (with Jeremy Irvine as his younger self), a soldier who was captured and tortured by the Japanese during World War Two, who was haunted by his experiences as a POW, but eventually reconciled with one of his torturers. Right now, the film is somewhat under the radar, despite shooting some time ago, but the subject matter certainly seems potent, and all it will take are some rave festival reviews (TIFF is probably a good bet) to put Firth back into the race.

Dennis Quaid - "At Any Price"
A rarity on this list in that not only is it shot and finished, but we've also seen it, Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price" proved somewhat divisive when it screened at Venice and TIFF last year, some falling for the film's Arthur Miller-ish melodrama, some finding it overblown and creaky. But one thing united most of the reviewers; the central performance from Dennis Quaid, who plays a charismatic Iowan corn farmer struggling to keep his family and business together. It's a truly titanic turn, easily the role of the (never-nominated) actor's career, and one that even those cool on the film have been impressed by. The question is whether it can get the momentum for an awards run. Sony Pictures Classics held the film back in order to avoid being swamped by the tough 2012 competition, but with the release coming at the end of April, they have a tough task on their hands to keep Quaid in voters' minds for the best part of ten months. But if they can fight for him in the way that Summit did for Demian Bichir in "A Better Life" (making sure the film was the first screener on voters' doorsteps etc.), it could well happen.

Daniel Bruhl - "Rush”
We're not entirely convinced by the prospects of "Rush," the reunion of "Frost/Nixon" director and writer Ron Howard and Peter Morgan. Can audiences, and Academy voters, be persuaded to care about Formula 1? (Let's not forget the widely acclaimed "Senna" missed out on a documentary nomination in 2012.) But it could have a potential ace up its sleeve in Daniel Bruhl. The German actor is familiar to U.S. audiences thanks to "Inglourious Basterds," and is a double threat this year, playing Daniel Domscheit-Berg in "The Fifth Estate," and playing Niki Lauda in "Rush." It's the latter that's the real peach of a part. The Austrian driver was engaged in a fierce rivalry with British racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), but was caught in a terrible crash at the German Grand Prix in 1976, suffering horrific burns and falling into a coma. But somehow, Lauda returned to racing only six weeks later, and went on to take Hunt right down to the wire. It's a great story and a great part, and even if the film doesn't land with audiences as a Best Picture contender, Bruhl might well be a dark horse to watch.

Christian Bale - "Untitled David O. Russell ABSCAM Project"
Given that his last two films have seen seven acting nominations (and three wins) between them, one should always pay attention to the actors in a David O. Russell movie, and with a cast like the one he's landed for his currently-untitled new one, that's no exception. It's hard to tell this far out who will be campaigned as lead, but it looks to us from an early draft of the script that Christian Bale has the edge on Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner. The actor won Supporting Actor the last time he teamed up with David O. Russell, and graduates to lead this time, so expectations are certainly high. The role, a conman brought in to help the FBI in an investigation of organized crime and political corruption, is a fun one, but perhaps it will be viewed as being in the similar comic/drama territory as his turn in "The Fighter." But that didn't seem to hurt Christoph Waltz any this year, when he won his second Oscar for what was essentially the same role.

Robert Redford - "All Is Lost"
Though he won an Oscar for directing "Ordinary People" (and another honorary award in 2002), Robert Redford has only ever been nominated for one acting award (Best Actor for "The Sting" in 1974) and didn't win. The decent but muted reaction to his latest directorial effort, "The Company You Keep," doesn't look likely to change that, but one to keep an eye on could be "All Is Lost." The sophomore feature from J.C. Chandor, director of "Margin Call" (who got a nomination for the screenplay of that film), it sees Redford in a man-versus-nature drama, as a man adrift at sea. This sort of thing has worked well in the past, but there's an intriguing element about it that could sink it (excuse the pun); Redford says there's no dialogue in the film. Will audiences forgive that? With the 77-year-old Redford taking on a very physical role, they might well. Plus Lionsgate, who are pretty thin on awards contenders otherwise right now, have the film, so this could be their focus.

Also Worth Considering: Josh Brolin in "Oldboy" and maybe "Labor Day" (though that's probably supporting, which we also think will be true of Bradley Cooper in "Serena" and Jeremy Renner & Joaquin Phoenix in "Lowlife'), Michael Fassbender in "The Counselor," Joaquin Phoenix in "Her," Hugh Jackman in "Prisoners," Liam Neeson in "Third Person," Tahar Rahim in "The Past," Ralph Fiennes in "The Invisible Woman," Clive Owen in "Blood Ties," Jesse Eisenberg in "The Double," Brendan Gleeson in "Calvary," Mathieu Amalric in "Venus In Fur," Dane DeHaan in "Kill Your Darlings," Miles Teller in "The Spectacular Now," Viggo Mortensen in "The Two Faces of January," Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight," Ryan Gosling in "Only God Forgives" and maybe "The Place Beyond The Pines" (again, the latter could be a supporting performance), and Christoph Waltz in "Zero Theorem."

And our predictions in one place, just so you have them and can mock them in eleven months time. Let us know your own thoughts in the comments section below.

Best Actor
Steve Carell - "Foxcatcher"
Benedict Cumberbatch - "The Fifth Estate"
Bruce Dern - "Nebraska"
Chiwetel Ejiofor - "Twelve Years A Slave"
Matthew McConaughey - "Dallas Buyers Club"

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  • JACK CRAWFORD | October 28, 2013 11:10 PMReply

    my predictions
    best supp actress 2014 nominees

    scott thomas

  • BERNIE ROSE | October 28, 2013 11:08 PMReply

    my predictions
    best supp actor 2014 nominees


  • MIRANDA PRIESTLY | October 28, 2013 11:07 PMReply

    my predictions
    best actress 2014 predictions

  • JORDAN BELFORT | October 28, 2013 11:04 PMReply

    my predictions
    best actor 2014 nominees

  • Michael M. | March 31, 2013 11:01 PMReply

    Let me make this clear, insofar as the ACADEMY:

    Best Actor: Chiwetal Ejiofor - Twelve years a slave (Runner Up: Leonardo Dicaprio)
    Best Picture: Untitled Abscam Project (Runner up: George Clooney, Martin Scorsese).
    Best Director: David O. Russell (Runner up: Wolf of Wall Street, Monuments Men).

    Personally Ejiofor should win, I mean come on? A gut-wrenching portrayal as the kidnapped Solomon Northup. With that given I think it's almost unavoidable, although DiCaprio could pull off an upset considering he's in Scorsese's highly anticipated project. While BD and BP are up for grabs, I wouldn't necessarily mind Russell winning. He's a solid director with Weinstein backing him, and an academy darling as of late. Although I could easily see Clooney walking away for his highly touted historical piece "The Monuments Men" as well. With that being said, alas! something in me yells: WILL YOU GIVE IT TO MALICK ALREADY!

    Anything else?

  • Jamie | March 8, 2013 6:06 PMReply

    Need to keep an eye on Hugh Jackman in Prisoners. The Academy will want to apologize for having to give the award to DDL when Jackman actually earned it.

  • Michael | March 5, 2013 4:12 PMReply

    Great job, just mention pretty much EVERY film released late in 2013 so you can pat yourself on the back for "predicting" the acting nominees...wonderful feat!

  • Jo | March 2, 2013 11:11 AMReply

    Watch out for PRISONERS, a top-rated 2009 Black List script, which may produce some gripping performances from Hugh Jackman, Paul Dano, and Melissa Leo. The strong cast also includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Terence Howard.

  • Allie | March 3, 2013 1:04 AM

    I agree. I think it could turn out to be a really strong contender.

  • Kiss From France | March 1, 2013 5:30 PMReply

    Apparently, Leo said to Jean Dujardin that all the things he does and has suggested in "The Wolf of Wall Street" - sex and drug stuffs I guess - could make him banished from the area forever !

    Dujardin added that Leo gave all his guts in the part. So, to the people who claim he takes no risks anymore because of the consistent serious, depressing and ambiguous characters and choices them just to get a award : give me a breaaaak (that what Leo's doing by the way, mouhaha !!)

  • John | February 28, 2013 2:46 PMReply

    there is no way your 5 are making the cut in what you admit is a category that always sees familiar names/a-listers. Your 5 are all never-been-nominateds and that's, frankly, just 100% unrealistic. Benedict Cumberbatch seems like the only sure bet out of your 5 imo. Dicaprio and Hanks are two other sure bets that you stupidly left out.

  • - | February 28, 2013 12:41 PMReply

    I think Leo getting nominated is a pretty sure thing, seeing as his best work is often in Scorsesse films. (that is, unless the film ends up being really terrible)

  • bapi | February 28, 2013 8:19 AMReply

    Also Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace.

  • Alan B | February 28, 2013 2:12 AMReply

    Dennis Quaid Serious Face! Dennis Quaid Serious Face! Give the award to the Quaid-ster.

  • Tom | February 27, 2013 10:05 PMReply

    @Allan I dunno about you man but Cumberbatch's nickname in the TrekMovie is Cumby (other times, BC or nuSherlock). So there. And it is not just the gossip sites that call Fassbender Fassy, you know.

  • JB | February 27, 2013 8:02 PMReply

    Bale will indeed be a longshot as Weinberg for the Abscam movie. Thirty years ago, the plan for a movie with Weinberg as a likeable conman was scuttled after his wife committed suicide after revealing his nefarious activities on the side. And Weinberg himself is involved in both the old and new projects.

  • que | February 27, 2013 6:52 PMReply

    How is James McAvoy not on this list? The guy has 5 films coming out this year, including leading, vastly different roles in Filth, Trance, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.

  • Travis Mills | February 27, 2013 4:52 PMReply

    Let's not forget, with talk from David Gordon Green, about Nicolas Cage in "Joe"

  • prakshid | February 27, 2013 4:29 PMReply

    Best Motion Picture
    "August Osage County"
    "The Counselor"
    "Dallas Buyer's Club"
    "Labor Day"
    "Monuments Men"
    "Saving Mr. Banks"
    "Twelve Years a Slave"
    "Untitled David O Russell ABSCAM Project "- American Bullshit
    "The Wolf Of Wall Street"

    Best Actor In A Leading Role
    Tom Hanks - "Saving Mr. Banks"
    Leonardo Di Caprio - "The Wolf Of Wall Street"
    Matthew McConaughey - "Dallas Buyers Club"
    Christian Bale - "Untitled David O. Russell Project"
    Steve Carell - "Foxcatcher"

  • prakshid | February 27, 2013 4:23 PMReply

    My Top 30 Most Anticipated Hollywood Films of 2013
    9.Untitled Project by David O. Russell
    10.Untitled Project by TERRENCE MALICK
    13.LABOR DAY
    25. OLDBOY

  • cirkusfolk | February 27, 2013 4:13 PMReply

    Your link for lasts years piece takes us to the piece from two years ago.

  • russ | February 27, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    Anyone have a copy of the abscam script there willing to send my way. would be very nice to take a look at that.

  • prakshid | February 27, 2013 4:37 PM

    Which are the other film's script do you have?

  • Tom | February 27, 2013 4:10 PMReply

    Is Cumby confirmed in the "The Imitation Game" already because I want to see that film ASAP!!!

  • Allan | February 27, 2013 5:08 PM

    I don't think it's very likely this movie would be released within this year, considering the earliest possible filming schedule is after they wrap up filming for Series 3 of Sherlock, which may be in late summer, and Cumberbatch already has five movies line up for 2013. BTW, do you also call Fassbender Fassy, Gosling Gossy and Meryl Streep Streepy? Funny that some of The Playlist readers now seem from some gossip sites? Seriously, Cumberbatch isn't really that uncommon as a surname.

  • Allan | February 27, 2013 5:08 PM

    I don't think it's very likely this movie would be released within this year, considering the earliest possible filming schedule is after they wrap up filming for Series 3 of Sherlock, which may be in late summer, and Cumberbatch already has five movies line up for 2013. BTW, do you also call Fassbender Fassy, Gosling Gossy and Meryl Streep Streepy? Funny that some of The Playlist readers now seem from some gossip sites? Seriously, Cumberbatch isn't really that uncommon as a surname.

  • Jen | February 27, 2013 4:50 PM

    Yes it was confirmed on the producer's website.

  • Tom | February 27, 2013 4:09 PMReply

    Is Cumby confirmed in the "The Imitation Game" already because I want to see that film ASAP!!!

  • Tom | February 27, 2013 4:09 PMReply

    Is Cumby confirmed in the "The Imitation Game" already because I want to see that film ASAP!!!

  • oliver | February 27, 2013 4:17 PM

    Cumberbatch is confirmed for Alan Turing in the Imitation Game. His name is on the Production team's website. Also a friend of his on twitter confirmed it too.

  • Tom | February 27, 2013 4:06 PMReply

    Is Cumby confirmed in the "The Imitation Game" already because I want to see that film ASAP!!!

  • Oliver | February 27, 2013 4:02 PMReply

    I'm most excited to see Cumberbatch as Assange and dearly would love him to win the Oscar. I've never seen him in a role where he doesnt deserve an award!!! However without a Weinstein type of figure pulling the strings with a huge pr budget no actor has a cat in hells chance of winning the award.

  • oogle monster | February 27, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    Why is everything underlined? I am currently being underlined. This is weird, Playlist! What's going on? Also Leo seems like a sure bet especially over your other contenders (for Wolf of Wall Street). I would also argue Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace and possibly Gosling in Place Beyond the Pines. But first, the underlining!

  • Liz | February 27, 2013 3:46 PM

    The underlining thing sometimes happens to me too (in Firefox). I refresh the page, open in a new tab, or close the window entirely, but it comes and goes seemingly in a completely random way.

  • Rex | February 27, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    Bruce Dern is winning. Dallas Buyers Club is gonna be a complete piece of shit.

  • brace | February 27, 2013 2:51 PMReply

    I'm always rooting for new contenders so your pick for best actor is perfectly fine with me.

  • cranly | February 28, 2013 1:45 AM

    Benicio Del Toro for Jimmy Picard. Well worth considering, I should think. A prime candidate for this year's Cannes best actor award, at the very least.

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