Two of the most high profile awards at any given award shows are always Best Actor and Best Actress. The reason for this simple: the award goes to movie stars. I personally don’t think these acting awards are really that much more important than all the other awards, but they are important, and this particular award is extremely competitive this year. I had to make cuts here that I didn’t want to make, but I’m pretty happy with the final five.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor- 12 Years a Slave: He gets a little overshadowed by Nyong’o and Fassbender at times, but I was still pretty damn impressed with what Chiwetel Ejiofor was able to do as the central character of 12 Years a Slave. Ejiofor is a great actor, but he hasn’t always had the best roles to demonstrate his skills. Here he’s older than he was the last time I remember seeing him on screen and he does a really good job of portraying the dignity that his character manages to maintain throughout his ordeal.
- Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks is one of those guys you get so used to seeing as a charming individual on talk shows that you sometimes forget that he’s also a pretty great actor. It’s with films like Captain Phillips that he reminds you of how he got to this place of incredible respect. Playing a regular guy who’s caught in a crappy situation, Hanks doesn’t turn Phillips into some kind of hero but he does manage to put you in his shoes and allows you to be impressed with how he was able to get out of it alive.
- Matthew McConaughy – Dallas Buyers Club: Proof positive that a great performance can come out of a mediocre movie (and that a mediocre movie can’t be made that much better by a great performance) is Matthew McConaughy’s turn in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughy is pretty far removed from his glamorous romantic-comedy persona here and he also can’t really fall back on his usual “alright, alright, alright” ticks. As such this is pretty much the most transformative performance we’ve seen out of McConaughy even during this “McConaughsense” he’s been going through.
- Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis: Oscar Isaac probably does deserve some credit here for being able to sing all the songs I the film and making for a plausible talent. However, this nomination is for acting, and he more than earns his way here on that alone. I really love the way that Isaac is able to thread this needle in which he manages to make audiences understand why his character is behaving the way he is and allows them to sympathize with him even when he’s kind of being an ass.
- Leonardo Di Caprio – The Wolf of Wall Street: I wouldn’t call Leonardo Di Caprio’s performances in recent years “humorless,” but I have gotten the impression that in the post-Titanic years he was maybe over-compensating in order to prove that he was a serious thespian. This is why it was so surprising to see him adjusting so quickly to the comedic rhythms of The Wolf of Wall Street. He trades lines with Jonah Hill like a pro, but his dramatic chops come into play too, especially when he’s giving speeches to his “troops” like some kind of crazed cult leader.