Christian Bale American Hustle
Bale’s nomination was one of the bigger surprises of award season; Irving is one of the ‘quieter’ characters in a very loud film. And the Academy does not normally recognize this type of role; also to nominate Bale over candidates like Tom Hanks and Robert Redford is a big statement. Yes, Bale gained the weight and shaved his head for the role, but anyone could do that; just look at Jared Leto in the atrocious Chapter 27. But there is something about Bale’s Irving that acts as the balanced center of a frantic world. He is the every man, if the every man was a financial crook; however, in the day and age where financial crimes are considered the worst vise vie Bernie Madoff, Bale always has the audience on his side. There is a skill to this charm that Irving always exudes; and it would be lost if played by a different actor.
Bruce Dern Nebraska
After finally seeing Nebraska, there is a small piece of me that really wants Bruce Dern to win. He is perfect as Woody Grant, the quiet alcoholic; at the beginning of the film he seems like an unlikable crotchety old man, however, by the end the audience will be rooting for him. Of course, this has to do with Bob Nelson’s writing: his script displays the perfect character arch. But a lot of credit has to be given to Bruce Dern who disappears into the role of Woody; yes, he is a recognizable character actor, but until now, he has never struck me as the leading type. As the movie reveals the many layers of Woody, the audience truly begins to understand this good-natured man. Yes, he is a diamond in the rough, but his only crime is “believing what people tell him.” Yes, that makes him single minded but it also makes him one of the most kind hearted characters to grace the big screen.
Leonardo DiCaprio The Wolf of Wall Street
DiCaprio has delivered some great performances over the years, but this is by far his best because he is given a fun meaty role. The audience should hate this character, but if they did, the film would not have worked. But somehow Leonardo, with the aid of Scorsese, gives Belfort a charm that wins the audience over. We know what he does is wrong and he blatantly tells us that when he breaks the fourth wall; but the audience becomes intoxicated by the excess. Leo is our vessel to this outrageous story: because of him we look past the excess and have a damn fun time.
Chiwetel Ejiofer 12 Years a Slave
As stated in previous articles, this is an important film because it makes people talk about repressed issues. However, as much as I liked the film I did not love it. It is an extremely tough film to sit through and I do not plan to watch this on a consistent basis. With that said, Chiwetel Ejiopher gives his best performance to date; he has been a wildly underrated actor who I loved in films like Redbelt, Serenity, American Gangster, Children of Men, and the list goes on. Finally after this film, he will get the praise that he deserves; yes, you can put any actor in Solomon’s situation and the audience will likely feel empathy for him. However, it is the degree of torment that is felt through Ejiofer’s performance, which changes this film for the better. Simple scenes without dialogue are perfectly conveyed through his eyes and facial expressions. There is no way to sugarcoat this film; it is a haunting movie that will be hard to forget. And many do not like to watch hard films, but this film needs to be seen; and at the least, see it for Chiwetel Ejiofer’s performance.
Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club
The year of the McConaughey: moviegoers realize that this former ‘surfer dude’ has turned his career around, but even I was shocked by his 2013 movies. Between Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Dallas Buyers Club he had a fantastic year: he could have been nominated for any of these three movies. But the Academy got it right with Dallas Buyers Club: which was by far his best role. Yes, his character Ron Woodroof is an alcoholic bigot and he only changes when he contracts HIV; but his fight against the FDA connects with viewers going through similar healthcare problems. Yes, he lost weight for the role, but like other actors in this category, he loses himself in the character. This is not the same actor from Mud and wolf, but a character that is doing anything to survive. Yes, the movie can be preachy, but the characters always stay grounded: even Leto’s transvestite. But Rayon would not have worked without Ron because Ron is the everyman. And though Matthew always had the good looks, his southern charm always radiated a feeling of vulnerability that connected with everyday people.
The closest race by far, 2013 was a fantastic year for actors; so much so, that several great performances were left off this list. As of right now the race is allegedly between Chiwetel Ejiopher and Matthew McConaughey, with a slight chance for DiCaprio to upset. In my opinion, DiCaprio has no shot to win this because Jordan Belfort is too polarizing of a character. Furthermore, on a different year I think Ejiopher would have won this award easily, but I believe the award will go to the actor who delivered the best performance, Matthew McConaughey.