Matt and Matt’s Oscar Countdown: Best Actor and Actress

Matt+and+Matts+Oscar+Countdown%3A+Best+Actor+and+Actress

By Matt Paolizzi and Matt Soderberg, Co-Sports Editor and Staff Reporter

We’ve talked about the supporting characters, but as the Oscars near, we discuss the best performances by actors and actresses in leading roles. The Actress field is more impressive and definitely competitive, but there were a plethora of powerful performances in both categories, and certainly snubs (Michael B. Jordan, cough). Here are our predictions and preferences for Best Actor and Best Actress.

Best Actor

The Nominees

Bryan Cranston – “Trumbo”
Matt Damon – “The Martian”
Leonardo Dicaprio – “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne – “The Danish Girl”

[one-half-first]

Matt Soderberg

Should Win – Michael Fassbender

Bryan Cranston is nominated in a movie no one saw, and Matt Damon is great in a movie that won’t win awards. That leaves the three real powerhouse performances: DiCaprio, Fassbender, and Redmayne. The latter won this award last year for The Theory of Everything, and this year played one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery in The Danish Girl. Redmayne is great, award-worthy even, but the movie around him is so bad and so boring that he’s out. It’s not a unique problem – the best performance by an actor this year is Fassbender’s as the titular Apple CEO in Steve Jobs. But similarly, the movie is not enjoyable. Weighed down by Oscar bait scenes and poorly paced, the movie can make no claims to greatness. But Fassbender brings so much depth to the role, so much more actual development than DiCaprio does in The Revenant. And that’s not to criticize DiCaprio, because he certainly provides in experience. But the Academy will continue on its trend of “do the craziest stuff and you’ll get the trophy,” so Fassbender, acting in a sweater will be overlooked for liver-eating DiCaprio. It will be his first Oscar, and his career is so distinguished that it’s deserved, but it’s a shame it will come not for one of his best performances, but for a pretty great one.

Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio

 

 

 

 

 

[/one-half-first]
[one-half]

Matt Paolizzi

Should Win – Leonardo DiCaprio

It seems inevitable. One of most inescapable actors in Hollywood for the past two decades, Leo has become more than a star. He’s an icon. Beloved by nearly all, his failure at the Oscars has become something of a running gag not only amongst cinephiles, but in mainstream culture as well. But yes, oh yes it will happen this year. While this crowd is, well, crowded, DiCaprio stands apart from the rest. Let’s take a quick look. Cranston puts in a great performance, but he suffers from both a terrible movie, but an even worse script. He carries the movie, but there’s not much to carry. The Martian was, for a big Hollywood blowout, a quality movie. , but there’s not much to carry. The Martian was, for a big Hollywood blowout, a quality movie. Damon is the focal point of his and, honestly, is really damn good. Some of those scenes when he’s alone in his little makeshift Martian abode are quite powerful and moving. But it’s not Revenant levels of desperation. Fassbender (my current man-crush) is a rising star. Out of the seemingly endless amounts of people who have played Jobs over the past couple of years, Fassbender does it best. But again, it’s not spectacular. He was better in the critically undervalued and underappreciated version of Macbeth by Justin Kurzel that came out this year. I would’ve rather seen him nominated for that. And finally, Eddie Redmayne. The reigning champion. He crushed my soul when he committed grand theft Oscar against Michael Keaton last year. I can see the appeal of Redmayne. I appreciate his dedication to perfecting the Hawking persona last year. You could’ve gotten a time machine, brought back younger Stephen Hawking to be in that movie, and not have noticed anything wrong. He didn’t deserve to win Best Actor though, and he doesn’t this year. The Danish Girl was bad. Straight up. While Redmayne was not bad per se, he was outshone by Vikander. Redmayne has great potential, but I want to seem him play someone original. Like what DiCaprio did. Sure, the character of Hugh Glass is based on a real person, but the tale is often greatly exaggerated. DiCaprio took Glass and made him his own. Watch Leo, watch him closely. His dialogue is sparse, yet he says more with his movements than with his words. That scene with him on the wooden bench, paralyzed after the (almost equally as good and) infamous bear attack, watching his son being brutally murdered by Tom Hardy’s character, is one of the more powerful scenes in recent cinematic history. And that ending sequence, that final shot with DiCaprio staring at the viewer with dead, harrowing eyes. I left that film feeling emotionally distraught, and Leo was a big reason why. This love tale between me and The Revenant will continue with me best picture prediction (oops, spoiler), but for now it seems as if Leonardo DiCaprio will finally claim his golden trophy. I’ll consider this revenge for last year’s blasphemous Keaton robbery.

Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio

[/one-half]

Best Actress

The Nominees

Charlotte Rampling – “45 Years”
Cate Blanchett – “Carol”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Joy”
Brie Larson – “Room”
Saoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn”

[one-half-first]

Matt Soderberg

Should Win – Brie Larson

I think this category contains three absolutely dominant, absolutely record-worthy performances. In their own years they’d be sure winners, but only one can get the nod. Blanchett is so good in Carol, in the same way she’s so good in everything she does. But she takes a backseat to Mara in her own film and will end up taking a backseat to the others here. Jennifer Lawrence is nominated because she is Jennifer Lawrence in a David O. Russell movie – both her and the movie (well, more so the movie) greatly disappoint. That leaves Rampling, Larson, and Ronan. At different points, I thought of each of them as the definitive answer to who should win this award. Rampling is so good, so painstakingly good in a movie that no one will see. Tom Courtenay is snubbed from a nomination in the role of her husband, in one of the harshest romantic dramas I’ve seen. With more visibility, she’d have a shot. Even a few weeks after I’d seen both Brooklyn and Room, I had convinced myself that Ronan should win. She is essentially the whole film, and plays one of the most dynamic romantic leads in recent Oscar memory. It’s intense to watch her, and the fact that Brooklyn is a better film can only help her. But as time went by, it was Larson’s performance that stuck with me. Both of these movies will never receive the appreciation they deserve, but when Larson takes over Room, it’s hard to imagine another winner. It’s something incredible, maybe indescribable, but even though she acts in the setting of a literal room with only an 8-year-old to share the screen, she deserves the award she’ll get.

Will Win – Brie Larson

[/one-half-first]
[one-half]

Matt Paolizzi

Should Win – Brie Larson

On paper, this looks like a close one.  Veterans Cate Blanchett, J-Law up against vibrant up and comers Saorise Ronan and Brie Larson? Holy hell, what a contest! But, the new girls outshine the old guard. Poor Charlotte Rampling is caught in the middle of this four-way bloodfest. I think she was a little better than J-Law, whose performance in the underwhelming Joy leaves one feeling bored. It’s like a major downgrading of her Silver Linings Playbook character. Blanchett is outperformed as well by Ronan and Larson. The two young actresses have proven themselves to be talented and able to carry films on their own. I had to watch each of their films an extra time to make sure I picked the right one. L wanted Ronan to be my pick, I really did. I wanted to set myself apart from all the other critics who have jumped on the Ronan bandwagon. She’s come a long way from starring in the vomit inducing The Host. But ultimately, Larson wins the day. Her portrayal of a desperate mother moved me. While Saoirse played a giddy new immigrant without having to change much of anything about herself, Larson molded her mind into new and threatening ways. The way she has her character hold her son, full of undying love, it’s like how any mother would. It’s how my mother would. While Ronan, who I admire greatly, brings much to the table, Larson brings a lot more. I expect great things from her in the future, starting with an Oscar win on Sunday.

Will Win – Brie Larson

 

[/one-half]