- Lead Actor
- Steve Carell in Foxcatcher
- Bradley Cooper in American Sniper
- Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
- Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
Steve Carell gives a creepily muted performance in Foxcatcher, but I just really have a hard time finding anything to love about this performance. This is the definition of "cast against type," and that's the real selling point of this character. Carell does a great job, but it's never enough to get more than a nomination.
I've talked some garbage about American Sniper, but Bradley Cooper was definitely a bright spot in this morass of a film. He nails the whole detached asshole thing, which I guess shouldn't actually be a surprise. He never elevates his character to a human with actual empathy, though, and it is in that regard that I just can't find myself to care about this performance.
Benedict Cumberbatch gives his best performance of the year, which is saying a lot as he also was in, uh, Penguins of Madagascar and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Okay, that's not fair as he was in four Oscar nominated films last year and was surprisingly overlooked for August: Osage County. He's strongly emotive here, but it all just feels a little couched in a "give me an Oscar" style. He's great here and worth watching, but there's a veneer of inauthenticity that I just can't get over.
Maybe you didn't watch Les Misérables when it came out, but you really, really should for a lot of reasons and Eddie Redmayne is one of them. Here, he phenomenally tributes Stephen Hawking, and his emulation of Hawking's struggle with ALS is remarkable. As Hawking has less to work with, Redmayne delivers ever more strongly. The Theory of Everything lives and dies on Redmayne's performance, and he nails it.
Do you even have to ask? I loved Eddie Redmayne, and he's about the only reason I'm legitimately interested in Jupiter Ascending (I also want to support Lana Wachowski, but that's not really "interest."). Everyone else, as far as Oscar-nominated performances go, was fairly middling. Keaton will definitely get some love from jettisoned actors with votes, but I think ultimately this goes to Redmayne.
Will win: Eddie Redmayne
Should win: Eddie Redmayne