Eddie Redmayne: The Danish Girl
Matt Damon: The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio: The Revenant (winner)
Michael Fassbender: Steve Jobs
Bryan Cranston: Trumbo
There are some decent nominations for 2015 Best Actor, but, as usual, there are some things I would like to change. Sylvester Stallone got a deserved supporting nomination for Creed, but Michael B. Jordan was completely ignored. Spotlight, which won Best Picture, was probably too much an ensemble for nominations for Michael Keaton or Mark Ruffalo. The same is likely true for both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which was also probably not serious enough. It’s possible to say the same about Straight Outta Compton, but O’Shea Jackson was certainly worth of consideration here. Michael Fassbender would have been an interesting choice for Macbeth, as would Ian McKellen for Mr. Holmes. The Academy is never going to give any respect to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he demonstrated some real chops in Maggie. Kurt Russell should have gotten some love for Bone Tomahawk. Tom Hiddleston for High Rise is a personal favorite because I love the book. Someone is going to bring up Colin Farrell in The Lobster, but I hated that performance and didn’t love the movie. Finally, while 45 Years was absolutely Charlotte Rampling’s movie, Tom Courtenay was with her every step of the way.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. To get this started, let’s eliminate Eddie Redmayne and The Danish Girl right away. I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on Redmayne one way or the other, but I’m not a huge fan of this movie or of this performance. Playing a character that was certainly a trailblazer is important, but this role as presented here gives us that trailblazer as someone who is disturbingly selfish and self-absorbed. I know I can hate a character and love the performance, but this isn’t one of those times. I’d rather see Tom Courtenay here.
4. I like The Martian, and I’m at least slightly positively oriented toward Matt Damon. He’s good in this film, and it helps a lot that the movie is a very smart story that bases itself on realistic science. But, while Damon is good, it’s science that is the real star here—science and the simulated surface of Mars. I like this performance, but I like the movie better, or at least the idea of the movie. The plot is the star here, and while Damon is fine, I’m not sure I think the performance deserves the nomination.
3. Michael Fassbender will almost certainly be in possession of an Oscar in the next five years or so, but Steve Jobs is not going to be that movie, even in hindsight. Don’t get me wrong—this is a damn fine performance from Fassbender, but it’s also one where he is routinely upstaged by Kate Winslet, who is the unsung hero of this film. Fassbender will win an Oscar someday and hopefully it’s one that he’ll deserve. Had he won this one, it would have felt like a career Oscar handed out too soon.
2. I like Bryan Cranston and I liked Trumbo pretty well. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for this kind of story, and when it’s done this well, there’s a good chance that I’m going to find a great deal to love here. I have no idea what the real Dalton Trumbo was like, but I imagine that he might not have been a great deal different than Cranston portrayed him. This is one of those movies where the main character is a force of nature. This requires a particularly tuned performance, and that’s exactly what Cranston gives us.
1. Ultimately, I’m going to go with Leonardo DiCaprio and The Revenant. I don’t know if this is DiCaprio’s best performance, but it’s very much a worthy one, in part because of (and not despite) his near silence for the last 90 minutes of the film. There was honestly no way that Leo wasn’t going to win this year; his campaign for Best Actor was concerted and deserved. This may not have been the nomination where Leo should have won the Oscar we all knew he’d eventually, but it’s a good one, and I won’t remove it.