Last night In Contention‘s Kris Tapley posted an assessment of the Best Actor situation, and in so doing declared there’s only one slot open once you factor in Birdman‘s Michael Keaton, Foxcatcher‘s Steve Carell, The Imitation Game‘s Benedict Cumberbatch and — last but far from least — Eddie Redmayne‘s turn as the afflicted Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
(l.) The distinctly nominatable Tom Hardy, star of the Locke and The Drop; (r.) In Contention columnist Kris Tapley.
The piece contains one questionable call and one glaring omission.
Tapley’s not wrong about Keaton, Cumberbatch and Redmayne but holdupski on Carell for one minute. Carell has carved himself a rep as Mr. Career Balls. The fact that he really burrows into the psyche of the late, very creepy multi-millionaire John Dupont is proof of that. But the reason Carell is considered a lock is because (a) he’s a rich and famous comic actor (he still makes awful, Norbit-like mainstream comedies like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), and because he (b) played Dupont with a kind of spazzy-wonky accent and (c) wore a prosthetic hook nose.
It’s not that Carell doesn’t deserve to be in the conversation. I fully respect what he did in Foxcatcher. I just don’t think he’s a stone-cold lock. Remember what Denzel Washington said before he announced that Nicole Kidman had won her Best Actress Oscar for The Hours? “By a nose…” Prosthetic noses are very big deals with the Academy. Be honest — would Carell be a presumed Best Actor lock if he hadn’t worn a fake schnozz?
Who could slide into Tapley’s rhetorical fifth slot? I’ll tell you who absolutely fucking should slide into it, and that’s Tom Hardy for delivering two ace-level, world-class performances this year — firstly his solo turn in Locke, easily one of the year’s best films and yet all but ignored by the know-it-alls because there’s no campaign afoot and they don’t see anyone buttering their bread, and secondly as the quiet, low-key barkeep in The Drop — a man of few words but with a cagey nature and an iron will. The year’s biggest take-away line — “Nobody ever sees you coming, do they, Bob?” — alludes to Hardy’s character in this film.
Say it again — Tapley doesn’t even mention Hardy as a possible contender, and yet TH arguably gave not one but two of the year’s greatest performances. Calculate that in your spare time.
Tapley’s suggestions for the fifth slot include Nightcrawler‘s Jake Gyllenhaal (which I can definitely support — it’s the strongest and most distinct performance he’s ever given), St. Vincent‘s Bill Murray (he’s our legendary fellow and well-liked but the movie’s not strong enough), Get On Up‘s Chadwick Boseman (his snarly, raspy and rapscallion James Brown is certainly one of my favorites), Mr. Turner‘s Timothy Spall (nearly half of his performance is all but incomprehensible due to his thick, guttural working-class accent), American Sniper‘s Bradley Cooper, Unbroken‘s Jack O’Connell (who was and is quite good in Starred Up and ’71, as Tapley says) and Selma‘s David Oyelowo (which is pronounced “oh-yellow”).
Tapley also mentions The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Ralph Fiennes, who gave a wonderfully droll and spirited performance that was one of his most likable ever, but my sense is that, cruel and unfair as this sounds, he’s been elbowed aside. Tapley speculates about Macon Blair in Blue Ruin…who? Tommy Lee Jones hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell with his Homesman performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman was brilliant in Anton Corbijn‘s A Most Wanted Man, no question, and I would be totally down with a posthumous nomination for the poor guy, but 2014 reps a very crowded field among the living, much less among the departed.
Miles Teller in Whiplash…certainly. Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year..who knows? Inherent Vice‘s Joaquin Phoenix…forget it. Boyhood‘s Eller Coltrane…nope.