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Hollywood Contenders – Looking again at actors/actresses this year due their first win

Leo DiCaprio the revenant
As mentioned yesterday, a few months ago I took a look at contenders in the 2015 Oscar race who have previously been nominated for Academy Awards but yet to take home the gold. It was a fairly speculative couple of pieces, but now that the season is beginning to separate the contenders from the pretenders, I wanted to look again at some of the more realistic names in the running for Oscar gold, this time looking at actors and actress. These are all players who have been nominated previously but yet to win anything, so if they were to emerge victorious this year, it would be their first times on the big stage.

As a reminder the 16 names cited (including six honorable mentions) were Joan Allen, Helena Bonham Carter, Jessica Chastain, Glenn Close, Bradley Cooper, Johnny Depp, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Ralph Fiennes, Diane Lane, Laura Linney, Carey Mulligan, Ellen Page, Mark Ruffalo, and Will Smith. Obviously, some of these thespians are still in the thick of it while some are more decidedly out of it, so whittling things down to just five was a bit of a process, if not necessarily too hard. The ones I’m narrowing it down to are the half dozen of Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Mark Ruffalo, and Will Smith. Below I’ll be discussing them a bit more, hoping to see how their chances now stack up for a first Academy Award…

Steve Jobs Michael Fassbender

We begin with Depp, a potential Best Actor nominee for Black Mass. Some even seem to believe that he has a chance to win the Oscar for playing notorious gangster Whitey Bulger. I’m not sure I buy that, but if he does get nominated he’ll have to be considered a viable option. Voters haven’t gone for a Depp in a while, so this is a wild card of sorts to me.

DiCaprio is next up, and to many he’s the sight unseen frontrunner in Best Actor for The Revenant. The odd nature of the category right now makes that too hard to argue with, though I do wonder if he’s almost set up to fail here. DiCaprio is going to win an Oscar one day, I’m just not certain that it’s going to be this year. We’ll know more when the film reveals itself for pundits next month. Until then…sit tight.

Third in line here is Fassbender, who could very much be the one to beat in Best Actor for Steve Jobs if DiCaprio turns out not to be a big player. His main issue will be the weak box office for his film. Had it been a hit, I think he would have been the undisputed frontrunner. Now, while he’s still pretty safe for a nomination, a win is far from guaranteed. Fassbender can still do it, and might be the likeliest outside of DiCaprio, but it’s a slippery slope for him now, to say the least…

Next up is Mulligan, who has a Best Actress win in her sights for Suffragette. I don’t especially see that as a likely scenario, but I can’t count her out for a nomination right now either. Her movie hasn’t been incredibly well received, which hurts, but if the precursors are kind to her, things can change quickly. My hunch is that she comes up short, but not by all that much.

Ruffalo is next up and he’s potentially the frontrunner in Best Supporting Actor for Spotlight. For my money, this is one of the very best performances of 2015, though I’m not sure how things will go with his co-star Michael Keaton firmly in the running as well (he could have been cited here in this piece too, just as a quick aside). A vote split could keep either from winning. That being said, right now I have Ruffalo winning Supporting Actor and I have no immediate plans to back off of that prediction. Of everyone here, he might be in the best position overall, give or take DiCaprio being sight unseen, of course. Bet against Ruffalo at your own peril.

Finally, we have Smith, who is a Best Actor contender for the recently revealed Concussion. Up until the first reviews came in, he was considered a big threat to win. Now, he might have to settle for a nomination as his reward, but it’s still early. I’m less bullish on Smith this week than I previously was, but a lot can and still will happen with this candidacy. We’ll just have to see how things evolve for Smith as the precursors get underway, since he’s currently right on the cusp, whichever way you look at it. They’ll likely be what makes or breaks him in the Best Actor race…

Will Smith Concussion
Stay tuned to see if anyone can pull off the win this year!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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