Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Will Win: Jared Leto has this pretty much sewn up, and he’s fine in the movie, though I don’t know if the role is really up to his commitment.
Should Win: I can’t believe I’m writing this, but my favorite is Bradley Cooper. He doesn’t have the biggest accent, outfit, or scene-stealing shtick in American Hustle, but he hits many of its high points anyway as an ambition-crazed FBI agent. If I could choose the performance clips for the ceremony (a long-standing fantasy of mine), I’d pick a looping GIF of Cooper imitating Louis CK and then laughing uproariously at himself. He blends the comic and dramatic intensity of Hill and Fassbender, respectively, two other performers I’d be happy to see up there.
Missing: I understand why John Goodman didn’t make it in here for his hilarious Inside Llewyn Davis cameo, but it would have delighted me nonetheless. Also, even though he actually belongs in the more competitive Best Actor race based on, you know, lines and screentime and the movie’s point of view, Will Forte was running in the supporting category for Nebraska, and he does fine, understated work to carry that movie.
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Will Win: Most people say this comes down to a Nyong’o/Lawrence face-off. Nyong’o is a newcomer at 30, while Lawrence is an Oscar-winning veteran at 23. Assuming voters’ collective crush on Lawrence isn’t as strong as film writers’ collective crush, bet on Nyong’o.
Should Win: Nyong’o is powerful and Lawrence is hilarious, but I’d vote for June Squibb for telling everyone to fuck themselves in Nebraska.
Missing: Julia Roberts getting in the final five here looks to me like a pretty loud sigh of, well, what else we got? (Perhaps I’m projecting my dislike of Julia Roberts onto the Academy.) The answer to that question is: you got Emma Watson, playing it broad but totally rocking it as a vapid upper-class thief in The Bling Ring.