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2018’s Oscar nominations arrived earlier this week, offering a hopeful change of pace to shake up what most of us have come to expect from Academy voters. While an Oscar statuette is considered the highest praise an actor can receive, they’re not always awarded for the best performance on a star’s resume. Let’s take a look...
Let’s not bury the lead here - 2018 is shaping up to be Gary Oldman’s year, with the screen-vet and twice Academy nominated star looking likely to take home an Oscar for his immersive turn as UK Prime Minister and friendliest person you’re ever (not) likely to see on the tube, Winston Churchill. If he does win big, it’ll be no big surprise. Oldman’s made going to the cinema worthwhile for the better part of twenty-five years and while his take on Churchill is impressive, it’s hardly the role he’ll be remembered for. True Romance’s Dexyl Spivey or The Fifth Element’s Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg may not be welcome in the Academy’s Kodak Theatre but they’re more than welcome on the DVD shelves of die-hard fans. Will Oldman's turn as a prickly PM be as fondly remembered? Don't think so.
Is there anyone who so clearly wanted an Academy Award more than Leo DiCaprio? Pick a film at random from his IMDB resume. Go on. Take a look. No matter which title you land on, his performance in that movie could easily be considered as a contender for Best Actor. Here’s someone who not only seems to pick his roles based on their ability to blow socks off but who carefully curates his personal life off-screen to maintain the illusion and allow for easy immersion whenever we see him in a new character’s shoes. The guy even started strong; making his mainstream debut with a enviable performance in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. After missing out with classic turns in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, 2004’s The Aviator and 2006’s The Departed, it took him literally crawling though the mud and putting himself through hell to get what he was after. Is it his best role? Nope. Did it do the job? You bet.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Jeff Bridges had some sort of advantage when it comes to industry recognition. As the son of Lloyd Bridges and younger brother to Beau, acting was seemingly in his blood and while it never appeared that he was all that interested in awards, that didn’t stop him from turning in performances that were worthy of them. It was his role as grizzled country singer Bad Blake in 2009’s Crazy Heart that won him his Academy Award, melding two passions that are clearly close to Bridges’ heart: acting and music. However the film is almost forgettable when it comes to his extensive back catalogue. Crazy Heart better than Tron, The Fisher King or The Big Lebowski? That’s just, like, the Academy’s opinion, man.
Sort-of-cockney-sort-of-American sounding actor Christian Bale is known for going to extreme lengths in the name of professional pretending AKA acting. Sometimes he’s losing an uncomfortable amount of weight, like when he appeared in 2004’s The Machinist. Sometimes he’s losing an uncomfortable amount of hair, like he did when he starred in (and won a Best Actor Oscar for) 2010’s The Fighter - and sometimes he’s just plain losing it and it's uncomfortable, like when he got all mad at that lighting guy whilst shooting 2009’s meandering sequel Terminator Salvation. Either way, the guy’s committed, and the Academy clearly acknowledged that - even if it did take them almost 25 years. While it’s undeniable that Bale is an actor worthy of an Academy Award, it’s hard not to think his talents should have have appreciated straight off the bat in Spielberg’s 1987 epic Empire of the Sun or even 2000’s unnerving American Psycho. Perhaps, like Patrick Bateman, his early work was a little too new wave for their tastes.
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The 90th Academy Awards is just a few months away - and you can tell. The industry has stepped up its game by firing out its best and brightest titles in the hopes of bagging gold - but who’ll come out on top? While Oscar predictions can often be hit and miss, some stars wear their intentions very much on their sleeve when it comes to Academy approval. People like...
When actors pick roles the old saying goes: one for them, one for you. Unless you’re Joaquin Phoenix. The Gladiator star seems to have dedicated his entire career to fully immersing himself in characters most likely to land him on the Best Actor shortlist. While he may have only been nominated thrice (Gladiator in 2001, Walk The Line in 2006 and The Master in 2013), you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s happened more, having starred in look-at-me awards fodder Her, Inherent Vice and Irrational Man all in the last decade alone. This year’s no different, with Phoenix doubling-down on his personal quest by playing none other than the Son of God in Mary Magdalene. Thems some big sandals to fill. Jesus Christ, somebody give this guy an Oscar.
Some stars have been around long enough to vary their output to suit all audiences whilst still managing to juggle their dedication to earning an industry nod. Amy Adams has dabbled in almost every genre going - from big budget kids films like Enchanted to questionable tent-pole epics like Man of Steel - and yet at the same time she’s proven time and time again that there’s much more going on beneath the surface. 2005’s Junebug flagged this aspect of her character early on and it’s continued with powerful performances in 2008’s Doubt, 2010’s The Fighter and most recently 2016’s quiet sci-fi Arrival. Adams may be following up her appearance in Tom Ford’s artfully shot Nocturnal Animals with a return to popcorn cinema in Justice League and Disney sequel Disenchanted but it feels like it’s only a matter of time until she bags gold.
Jake Gyllenhaal burst onto the scene in 2001’s Donnie Darko, a film that was possibly a little too bizarre for major industry recognition at the time but one that perfectly showcased the burgeoning actor’s talent and potential. He may have been unable to resist the occasional big studio paycheque (Prince of Persia, we’re looking at you) but Gyllenhaal has consistently returned to roles with depth, pathos and the ability to appear on the radars of Academy voters. In 2006, he came tantalisingly close with Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and has tried restlessly to return to that spot in the years since, with smart choices like 2013’s Prisoners, 2014’s Nightcrawler and 2016’s Nocturnal Animals. With his new one Stronger pulling on heart strings by telling a real-life Boston bombing tale, perhaps 2017 could finally be his year.
It takes some serious acting chops to receive four Best Actress nominations, especially when you consider the time and effort it takes to fully embody a character worthy of receiving that accolade. Then there’s all the additional press and promotional work that so often comes hand-in-hand with pushing for Academy recognition, all when you could very easily be making a decent living with big payday roles in summer blockbusters. And yet one look at Michelle Williams’ IMDB page showcases her dedication to constantly churning out high-brow content. Whether it’s showcasing all colours of a long-term relationship in Blue Valentine, taking centre stage in My Week With Marilyn or playing opposite grief in Manchester By The Sea - Williams’ end-goal is clear. Your move, Academy.
He made his name by making us laugh in Bruce Almighty, Anchorman and of course, America’s superb adaptation of The Office but Steve Carell clearly has higher aspirations than tickling a few funny bones. His serious slant was teased relatively early on when he played a suicidal teacher in the ace Little Miss Sunshine but it was his transformative portrayal of the troubled John du Pont in 2014’s dark drama Foxcatcher that made his intentions of Oscar glory crystal clear. While his goal may be set, making the transition from token funnyman to the owner of a gold bloke is no easy task (Robin Williams did it but not many others have) but by continuing to surprise audiences with roles like the one he files in this year’s Battle of the Sexes, Carell could very well be in with a chance.
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Author: Simon Bland