Alright, so you may notice that one of the actors nominated here has spent most of the award season campaigning as a lead actor. He can do that all he wants, but I’m strict about these supporting/lead designations and when a movie is told almost entirely from the perspective of another character I have trouble calling them leads. Besides, the lead actor category is over-stuffed and this makes more room for other actors there.
- Michael Fassbender- 12 Years a Slave: Is Michael Fassbender capable of doing a performance that isn’t kind of awesome? Probably not, and in this third collaboration between him and director Steve McQueen he manages to put his raw talent into a form that is hard for anyone to deny. Playing a truly vicious and despicable character, Fassbender manages to be both evil and at the same time kind of pathetic.
- Bobby Cannavale – Blue Jasmine: I was pretty high on Bobby Cannavale after his awesome performance in season three of “Boardwalk Empire” and thought it was pretty cool to see him playing a completely different character in Blue Jasmine. Stepping into a role that was based on a character who was once played by Marlon Brando is not easy, but Cannavale managed to make the character fit in a modern context and also did a great job of keeping the character from seeming like a complete jerk.
- Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips: Much has been written about Barkhad Abdi’s inexperience before he was discovered at an open audition by the producers of Captain Phillips. This modest origin is impressive indeed given that he’s an actor who manages to stand toe to toe with none other than Tom Hanks. You can also see the increasing desperation on his face over the course of the film as it becomes more and more clear that this situation isn’t going to end well.
- Michael Shannon – Man of Steel: Michael Shannon is the kind of actor who knows just the right way to go over the top without seeming ridiculous, and that’s exactly what he does while playing General Zod in Man of Steel. Shannon took the title of “General” seriously and played Zod as a sort of Kryptonian Julius Caesar, a man trying to maintain a sort of psychotic dignity while carrying out his insane duties.
- Bruce Dern – Nebraska: We haven’t seen a ton of Bruce Dern in prominent roles recently and that helps you to be a little surprised by his work here in Nebraska, where he plays an aging father who believes he’s won a million dollars. I sometime wonder what it’s like for… veteran… actors like Dern to have to play aged characters who are losing their faculties. Do they worry that this is their near future? I don’t know, but they have a certain intensity just the same.