Oscar Predictions: Round 2 - So Many Actors, Not Enough Spots

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight. Is there room for them?
The Oscar race of 2013 is already a crowded one, as we’ve seen from the first little murmurings on the supporting categories and the lead categories. The movies themselves don’t have so much to worry about if they want to be acknowledged, for the recently added flexibility of the number of nominations from five to ten has added more wiggle room to accommodate worthy films. Acting categories, however, remain at a firm five nominees. Take last year, for example, in which the Best Actor field was generally assumed to be down to six actors going into the nominations: Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Hawkes, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Denzel Washington. John Hawkes missed the cut, as we know, simply because there wasn’t room to accommodate all six of these popular performances within the five openings. Five is clean and traditional, but it doesn’t always reflect the best of the best.

It’s hard to know where to start to find the potential ‘John Hawkes’ among the field of contenders. Choose a potential nominee with great reviews, year-long buzz, and love from precursor awards: (Is it Forest Whitaker? Tom Hanks? Matthew "Give him a nomination already" McConaughey? Robert Redford in a career performance? Cannes winner Bruce Dern? Who?

An early look at the range of this year’s nomination-worthy performances suggests that something needs to change so another worthy actor doesn’t miss his or her due, well, just because. The switch from 5-10 Best Picture nominees has met with varying reactions, but the acting categories should also follow the logic of opening the field to accommodate more contenders whom voters deem have merit. Acknowledging a wider field of actors will make the Oscar game less worrisome and, better yet, a more accurate reflection of the quality of work that graces the screen in a given year.

Expanding the category to include ten names might not be feasible, for an extra twenty names and clips might add to the broadcast and take away from the work of other nominees in other categories. However, loosening the edge from five to, say, six or seven depending on vote calculations could work. There are a few other reasons why it might be better to let us predict seven names over five, such as creating an equal opportunity for independent films, which might earn actors a high return of votes from people who actually saw the film, versus a performance in a mainstream film that can was probably seen by a comparatively greater number of voters and could secure a spot more easily thanks to its wider reach. (See: the tragic overlooking of Tilda Swinton’s performance in Julia.)

Campaigning might be far less aggressive, too, as there would be more room for multiple actors from the same film. This extra space could prevent controversial factors like category fraud, as there would be room for, say, both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts to be nominated in the lead category, plus Margo Martindale might not be edged out of the supporting category by a lead performance. (As Leonardo DiCaprio was last year by his Django Unchained co-star, and eventual Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz.) The likes of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke could benefit just as well, for the extra opportunity could help early releases like Before Midnight that often seem to be forgotten at the end of the year.

A wider field generally honours excellent work without diminishing the integrity of the awards. (It’s true that the Emmys have seen some dubious wins since their categories were opened, but the Emmys were questionable long before this change occurred.) The inclusive Best Picture category has thrown some unexpected surprises since opening the field, but for every The Blind Side or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, there has been a Winter’s Bone, a Tree of Life, a Beasts of the Southern Wild or an Amour that got the recognition it deserved. The Best Picture vote requires a minimum percentage of ballots simply to ensure that the show isn’t filled with dregs for the sake of filling a category. (This change happened after The Blind Side was nominated in the short-lived two year period of ten guaranteed slots.) If only seven contenders receives the five percent it takes to earn the nomination, then the year is exemplified by seven films. However, seven is still broader and more representative than five are.

Furthermore, flexible categories preserve the integrity of the awards because media and fans would create more positive buzz for the ceremony. It’s better to have fans celebrate the Academy for finding room for an independent underdog like, say, Demián Bichir, than decrying the omission of a favourite like, say, Michael Fassbender. A flexible field seems like a win-win situation. There are so many strong performances this year, so it seems time the Academy made some changes.

For the time being, however, the four acting categories only have five spots apiece. We’ve already looked at who might make the cut and who might miss out, so here is a full update for the time being. It would be difficult to project who might be headed to the Oscars if the field were widened, anyway!

*New or moved

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks

Almost put: Nebraska

Alt: All is Lost*, August: Osage County, Fruitvale Station, Labor Day, Prisoners, Rush, The Wolf of Wall Street*
Removed: The Monuments Men (moved to 2014)

Best Director:
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Almost put: Stephen Frears, Philomena*

Alt: Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine; Lee Daniels, Lee Daniels’ The Butler; John Lee Hancock, Saving Mr. Banks;* Ron Howard, Rush; Richard Linklater, Before Midnight; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; Jason Reitman, Labor Day; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street;* Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners; John Wells, August: Osage County.

Best Actor
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All is Lost*

Almost put: Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels’ The Butler*

Alt: Christian Bale, American Hustle (or Out of the Furnace); Steve Coogan, Philomena; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street;* Idris Elba, Mandela; Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis; Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station; Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Almost put: Julie Delpy, Before Midnight*
Alt: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color;* Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County, Kate Winslet, Labor Day

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Labor Day
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle*
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Almost put: Matthew McConaughey, Mud (or The Wolf of Wall Street*)

Alt: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips;* Daniel Brühl, Rush; George Clooney, Gravity; Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners; Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks;* Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace; Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street;* Jeremy Renner, American Hustle.

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia RobertsAugust: Osage County*
Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station

Almost put: Margo Martindale, August: Osage County*

Alt: Naomie Harris, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Scarlett Johansson, Her (or Don Jon),* Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle*, Melissa Leo, Prisoners; Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis; Julianne Nicholson, August: Osage County

Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle - David O. Russell, Eric Singer
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen
Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Nebraska – Bob Nelson
Saving Mr. Banks – Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith

Almost put: Enough Said, Nicole Holofcener

Alt: Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig), Fruitvale Station (Michael B. Jordan), Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón), Her (Spike Jonze), Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Danny Strong), Mud (Jeff Nichols), Rush (Peter Morgan).

Best Adapted Screenplay
12 Years a Slave – John Ridley
August: Osage County – Tracy Letts
Before Midnight – Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips – Billy Ray
Philomena – Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Almost put: Labor Day, Jason Reitman
Alt: Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix)*, The Book Thief (Michael Petroni),* The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)*

Best Cinematography
Inside Llewyn Davis

Alt: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Frances Ha, The Great Gatsby, Nebraska

Best Film Editing:
American Hustle

Alt: The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf of Wall Street*

Best Score:
Saving Mr. Banks*

Alt: Prisoners

Best Costumes:
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
The Invisible Woman*
Saving Mr. Banks

Alt: Blue Jasmine, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Oz: The Great and Powerful*

Best Production Design:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Oz: The Great and Powerful

Alt: Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Visual Effects:
Man of Steel

Alt: Ender’s Game, The Hobbit 2, Oblivion*

Best Sound Mixing
12 Years a Slave*
The Great Gatsby*
Pacific Rim*

Almost put: Captain Phillips*, Inside Llewyn Davis*, Stoker* (Would they remember that?) 

Best Sound Editing
All is Lost*
Man of Steel*
Pacific Rim*

Alt: The Great Gatsby,* The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug,* Star Trek into Darkness* 

Best Make-up:
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Alt: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom*, Star Trek Into Darkness*
Best Song:
Desperation,” 20 Feet from Stardom
"Ordinary Love," Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom*

Alt: “100 Bills”, The Great Gatsby*; "Let it Go," Frozen*;The Moon Song”, Her*; “Unfinished Songs,” Unfinished Song*

Best Documentary Feature:
The Act of Killing

Almost put: Let the Fire Burn*
Alt: The Crash Reel*, Muscle Shoals, Our Nixon*, The Unknown Known*, Valentine Road
Removed: Finding Vivian Meier (ineligible)

-List of qualifying docs at The Wrap.

Best Animated Feature:
The Croods*
Monster’s University
The Wind Rises*
Alt: The Legend of Sarila* (go Canada!)

-List of submitted features at Awards Daily.

Best Foreign Language Film:
The Broken Circle Breakdown - Belgium*
The Hunt - Denmark
The Past – Iran
Wadjda – Saudi Arabia

Other submissions reviewed: Blind Spot (Luxembourg), Child’s Pose (Romania), Eat Sleep Die (Sweden), The Grandmaster (Hong Kong, note: the original version of the film was submitted, not the Weinstein recut that screened in North American), Renoir (France), Wajma: An Afghan Love Story (Afghanistan)
[See The Film Experience for the fullest coverage of this cateogy.]

What are your Oscar picks?

Should the Academy open the range of acting nominations beyond five?