Overlooking two great performances, here’s what the Oscar Academy chose to pick instead
At least two glaring, absolutely shocking omissions. Two men who deserved not just the nomination but a handful of that gold. Two men who were robbed of glory. Two men who captured the loneliness of the world we live in.
One who was at sea, literally, with no tiger, dialogue or support characters. By not recognising Robert Redford’s masterclass in acting All is Lost, the Academy has made it impossible for us to take this list of nominees seriously. We love Bale but come on! There are much better ways to show you are a Batman fan, wise old folks.
Robert Redford has just one monologue at the very beginning (and the end) of the film and one four-letter word somewhere in the middle. As the title suggests, All is Lost is about a man stranded at sea, losing everything… except his spirit to stay alive. Life of Pi, 127 Hours and Castaway minus the theatrics rolled into one epic performance. Sublime.
The other great performance of the year was Joaquin Phoenix, who falls in love with his Operating System, a sci-fi romance film that has spawned a hundred Siri jokes. Her, like All is Lost, is a one-man show. Joaquin makes us invest in the love story told largely through the lines on his face. This love story takes place in his head and we get a glimpse into what he’s thinking by just looking at his face.
Both All is Lost and Her were films made to show what actors can do to power a narrative without much help from other elements of filmmaking. And yet, both actors were criminally overlooked. Here’s a look at what the Academy picked instead:
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
We all know what a fantastic actor Christian Bale is. His commitment shows in how much he has abused his body to gain and lose weight, to make himself look ugly just to get into character. He’s a chameleon of an actor also capable of resigning himself to a mask and talk like he needs a restroom to relieve himself… because it pays for the months he’s preparing for the roles that deserve his acting muscle. American Hustle is not one of those roles. Here, he just slaps on a hairpiece, retro shades, sports a paunch and shows up like he’s at a Halloween party. Great fun but Oscar? No way. Just smartly hustled.
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Yes, this is certainly DiCaprio at his very best. But you got to admit that this is also the most fun an actor has been paid to have. Who gets millions to swear on screen over a hundred times, walk into a strip-club of a movie-set and spend passionate sessions with the hottest women in the world all because, well, the film requires him to play the epitome of debauchery. DiCaprio got a role that actors can only dream of getting in their lifetime. He doesn’t need an Oscar. But yes, a nomination is an indication that the Academy is at least sport enough to recognise a politically incorrect film.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
This is a standard made-for-the-Oscars movie and there’s no way the Academy would have overlooked good old Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave — Django where nothing is silent — a ‘blaxploitation’ flick that wants to remind us of America’s painful history of slavery. It holds back no punches and captures the depth of every little scar and whiplash. To Chiwetel Ejiofor’s credit, the actor lends this role so much grace and dignity that you never see him as a slave. Just a free man who held his head high no matter what the odds were. He’s most likely to win.
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Where was Matthew McConaughey all these years? He is a revelation in Dallas Buyers Club as a man fighting HIV and America’s drug policy. Not only has this good-looker lost weight to look frightfully unhealthy, he gives the role so many shades of character. From cold-hearted homophobe to suffering bed-ridden patient to money-minded entrepreneur to smooth-talking smuggler to conscientious activist... it’s a journey and transformation we completely buy in spite of this most complex character graph. Give it to him, please? Also, because he isn’t nominated for the role of Jordan Belfort’s mentor in Wolf of Wall Street, which arguably is the best cameo of the year.
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
This is the mandatory senior citizens nomination. And the old man here is simply unbelievably real and completely convincing in his portrayal of an Alzheimer’s patient who believes he has won a lottery and makes his son take him on a road trip to claim the prize. It’s a role that requires the veteran actor to fade in and out of consciousness. Dern plays it just right and makes us root for his earnest fantasy. He makes the character relatable with so many nuances that make us feel like we have known this man for years. But then, this is a completely author-backed role and a nomination is probably as far as this will go in the race.
In Supporting Roles
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips): This is almost a stereotype of a role but the young actor makes the pirate look menacing and dangerous despite his frail frame. Well played but Oscar? We doubt.
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle): The Academy has a crush on David O Russell. Like he has a quota reserved in the acting categories — The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and now American Hustle. Cooper is just all right. And lucky.
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave): What a despicable villain Fassbender is as he unleashes cruelty! Of the nominees, he is mostly likely to win because of the intensity he brings to the role, the sensitive subject and profile of the film.
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street): Jonah Hill plays a pervert and among the most politically incorrect characters to have been nominated for an Oscar. Great fun but like DiCaprio, he has already been rewarded with the role. We’ll cheer if he wins.
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club): Leto makes what could have gone over the top completely convincing and gives the character a lot of heart. It would be good to see him win but the role probably wasn’t long enough. A well-deserved nod for getting into the skin of a complex role.