Oscar Watch 2015: The Best Actor Race

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Pop-Break’s Film Editor and Resident Oscar Guru Daniel Cohen Breaks Down the 2015 Best Actor Race

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

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I’ve ranted and raved about how Steve Carell should be in the Best Supporting Actor category, but I guess it’s time to move on. If you were to ask me a couple months ago who the front runner is in this category, I would have said Carell. It’s my personal favorite performance of the year, but I get the feeling that’s not the consensus. He’s probably fourth in this race right now. In one of the closer categories of the night, I still wouldn’t be completely shocked if his name got called. He completely transforms into the role of John duPont. Carell is going to have the same problem as Rosamund Pike, in that the character is too cold, which may be hard for voters to latch onto.

Chances of Winning: Mid-Tier

Is the Performance Worthy of an Oscar? Yes

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

American Sniper is gaining momentum in all categories, but none more apparent than the star himself. Aside from this being Cooper’s third nomination in a row, the performance has truly resonated with people. While Michael Keaton’s role may be too off beat for some, and Eddie Redmayne too much the rookie, Cooper could easily sneak in as the third dark horse. The performance is also very Oscar-y, infused with tons of scenes that could be used for the Oscar clip. I still have Cooper behind the big two, but if you’re looking for your big upset call, this might be the ticket.

Chances of Winning: Mid-Tier

Is the Performance Worthy of an Oscar? Yes

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

The fact that Cumberbatch got the nomination over guys like Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and David Oyelowo (Selma) really disappointed me. I thought the Academy would come to their senses, but when Cumberbatch’s name got called I simply groaned. This is the most overrated performance of the year. I can’t recall one memorable scene where Cumberbatch really grabbed me. It’s fine, but an Oscar nomination? Come on. Just because the guy has a cool name and an awesome voice doesn’t make it a great performance. I’m sorry, but I’ve never been impressed with Cumberbatch, and certainly wasn’t by The Imitation Game. There is no way he wins this award.

Chances of Winning: Low

Is the Performance Worthy of an Oscar? No

Michael Keaton (Birdman)

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The performance speaks for itself. Keaton is flat out awesome, and delivers powerful monologue after powerful monologue. One of the biggest reasons he’s the front runner for this award is the groundswell of people who want to see him win. It’s a comeback story, it’s art imitating life, it’s got it all. The one aspect that could ultimately hurt him though is if voters see Birdman as more of ensemble greatness, and not want to honor any individual performance, Keaton included. Nevertheless, Keaton has seniority, and the fact that his biggest competition is a complete newcomer helps his cause quite a bit.

Chances of Winning: High

Is the Performance Worthy of an Oscar? Yes

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Eddie Redmayne is the other front runner for obvious reasons – he’s playing a man with ALS who also happens to be one of the most influential figures in recent memory. This is Oscar gold. While the performance is very good, I don’t believe he should win the Oscar. I don’t proclaim to be an acting coach, but in my opinion there are plenty of other actors who could have done what he did in that role. When you look at guys like Michael Keaton in Birdman, or Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, I can’t imagine anyone else playing those parts. That to me is why they deserve a statue more than Redmayne. I admire what Redmayne was able to accomplish, but he doesn’t even give the best performance in his own movie. He’s most certainly a huge threat to win this award, but at the end of the day I can’t imagine this new kid on the block getting the votes over Keaton, but we’ll see.

Chances of Winning: High

Is the Performance Worthy of an Oscar? No

Who Will Win the Oscar for Best Actor? Find out on February 22nd on ABC.

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

1 COMMENT

  1. Michael Keaton deserves the Oscar, but I fear for what his SAG loss to Redmayne and the (apparent) inevitable repeat loss to Redmayne at Sunday’s BAFTAs will mean. Redmayne may win because of the baity role and the momentum he has with the industry awards he has started to win, which can absolutely negate the admittedly critics-only acclaim given to Keaton’s towering comeback performance in Birdman. The industry, on the other hand, has yet to show support for Keaton.

    Honestly, I no longer care that much for what happens on Feb. 22, save for Alexandre Desplat winning Score (simply because he’s still empty-handed and did 5 good-to-great scores in 2014), Simmons winning Supporting Actor (it’s so obviously slam-dunk that it would be an outrage for him to lose, even to Norton), and Keaton winning Best Actor (the star are ridiculously aligned for him to win, but the industry? Not so sure).

    If all three of those go that way, I’ll be satisfied. But Keaton’s chances are slipping fast and they’ll only increase when Redmayne wins BAFTA. Here’s hoping for a British split between Redmayne and Cumberbatch to allow for Keaton to sneak through.

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