Awards Blend: The Best Actor Race Is About To Get Bloody

Someone’s going to be left out in the cold. Several very talented and deserving people, in fact. There’s no avoiding it. There are simply too many talented actors vying for five Best Actor slots this year, so on the morning of the Oscar nominations, there could be as many as 10 worthy performers looking at the five nominees and wondering why they aren’t in that exclusive group. I discuss the crowded Best Actor race in the current Awards Blend podcast.

Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, a number of professional groups started unveiling their year-end picks, giving slight momentum to hopeful projects. The National Board of Review honored J.C. Chandor’s moody American-dream drama A Most Violent Year with its top prize, while the New York Film Critics Circle chose Richard Linklater’s Boyhood as the year’s best film. Violent has been enjoying a nice push as it approaches theaters in the coming weeks. Boyhood, however, has been an Oscar favorite for weeks (almost months) now, and should continue to steamroll through several of the awards bellwethers as the season continues.

As of Friday, December 5, here’s where I think our major contenders stand:

oscar winner prediction

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The FrontrunnerBoyhood

The ContendersAmerican SniperBirdmanFoxcatcherGone GirlThe Grand Budapest HotelThe Imitation GameA Most Violent YearSelmaThe Theory of EverythingUnbrokenWhiplashWild

The Dark HorsesExodus: Gods and KingsThe GamblerInherent ViceInterstellarInto the WoodsNightcrawlerStill Alice

The LongshotsBig EyesFuryMr. Turner

It’s possible that this category could break major ground if two female directors (in Angelina Jolie and Ava DuVernay) are able to land nominations for their pictures Unbroken and Selma. The more I think about it, the more I think Clint Eastwood, who hasn’t been nominated in the Best Director category since 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima, returns to the category by returning to the battlefield for American Sniper. His NBR win helps, plus the Academy loves him. We’ll see how Sniper plays in the coming weeks.

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The FrontrunnerRichard Linklater, Boyhood

The ContendersDamien Chazelle, WhiplashAva DuVernay, SelmaClint Eastwood, American SniperDavid Fincher, Gone GirlAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, BirdmanBennett Miller, FoxcatcherMorten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

The Dark HorsesPaul Thomas Anderson, Inherent ViceWes Anderson, The Grand Budapest HotelJ.C. Chandor, A Most Violent YearAngelina Jolie, UnbrokenJames Marsh, The Theory of EverythingRob Marshall, Into the WoodsChristopher Nolan, Interstellar

The LongshotsDarren Aronofsky, NoahJoon-ho Bong, SnowpiercerMike Leigh, Mr. TurnerRidley Scott, Exodus: Gods and KingsJean-Marc Vallee, Wild

Easily the toughest category in this year’s Oscar race. There will be at least five worthy Best Actor candidates who’ll be on the outside looking in on the morning of the Oscar announcements, as we discussed in this week’s podcast (on Page One). When picking Frontrunners, I have four who I believe are mortal locks. That means there’s one possible slot open for nearly 20 possible contenders. Who’ll survive the lengthy Opening Stage of the awards campaign?

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The FrontrunnersSteve Carell, FoxcatcherBenedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation GameEddie Redmayne, The Theory of EverythingMichael Keaton, Birdman

The ContendersBen Affleck, Gone GirlJake Gyllenhaal, NightcrawlerOscar Isaac, A Most Violent YearDavid Oyelowo, SelmaChanning Tatum, Foxcatcher

The Dark HorsesChadwick Boseman, Get On UpEllar Coltrane, BoyhoodBradley Cooper, American SniperRalph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest HotelBill Murray, St. VincentJack O’Connell, UnbrokenJoaquin Phoenix, Inherent ViceTimothy Spall, Mr. TurnerMark Wahlberg, The Gambler

The LongshotsChristian Bale, Exodus: Gods and KingsTom Hardy, LockeAlfred Molina, Love is StrangeMiles Teller, WhiplashChristoph Waltz, Big Eyes

If the Best Actor is stacked, the Best Actress race is rail thin. A few candidates are emerging late, particularly Julianne Moore in the buzzworthy Still Alice. But I’m hoping Rob Marshall’s Into The Woods delivers a few noteworthy female performances, because right now, it’s looking like a two-horse race between Moore and Reese Witherspoon.

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The FrontrunnersJulianne Moore, Still AliceReese Witherspoon, Wild

The ContendersFelicity Jones, The Theory of EverythingRosamund Pike, Gone Girl

The Dark HorsesMarion Cotillard, One Day, Two NightsHilary Swank, The HomesmanShailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars

The LongshotsAmy Adams, Big EyesJennifer Aniston, CakeJuliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils MariaEmily Blunt, Into the WoodsAnne Hathaway, InterstellarGugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle

As predicted, J.K. Simmons is taking the trophies in the early, regional awards races. Hopefully his wins – as well as positive word-of-mouth – can continue to boost Whiplash at the indie box office on fire. Right now, I’m waiting for someone to step up and challenge Simmons for the lead in this category. It hasn’t happened yet.

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The FrontrunnersJK Simmons, WhiplashEdward Norton, Birdman

The ContendersMark Ruffalo, FoxcatcherEthan Hawke, BoyhoodTyler Perry, Gone Girl

The Dark HorsesJosh Brolin, Inherenet ViceAlbert Brooks, A Most Violent YearJohn Goodman, The GamblerTom Wilkinson, Selma

The LongshotsJames Corden, Into the WoodsJohnny Depp, Into the WoodsJoel Edgerton, Exodus: Gods and KingsTommy Lee Jones, The HomesmanChris Pine, Into the Woods

Much like the Best Picture race, I have one lock (in my mind) for the Supporting Actress race, and it’s tied to Boyhood. Patricia Arquette is the emotional anchor of Richard Linklater’s sprawling, 12-year journey, and her sentimental work should be enough to earn the actress her first Oscar nomination. Who will join her?

oscar winner prediction

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The FrontrunnersPatricia Arquette, BoyhoodKeira Knightley, The Imitation Game

The ContendersJessica Chastain, A Most Violent YearLaura Dern, WildEmma Stone, BirdmanNaomi Watts, Birdman

The Dark HorsesMelissa McCarthy, St. VincentVanessa Redgrave, FoxcatcherRene Russo, Nightcrawler Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice

The LongshotsCarrie Coon, Gone GirlAnna Kendrick, Into the WoodsJessica Lange, The GamblerMeryl Streep, Into the WoodsTilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.