Early 2016 Oscar Predictions: First Look at Best Actor

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Universal Pictures / Fox Searchlight / Focus Features / 20th Century Fox

We’re over the mid-year hump and on our way down, but there’s still a lot left to see so yes, these are early predictions, but it’s time to get the ducks in a row so we can begin shuffling the board as movies are released and contenders fall off and are added on. Last week I offered up 30 contenders. Let’s have a look.

As always, when you begin taking a look this early in the game most of the names that rise to the top are for unseen, but assumed they will be great, performances. My opening field is really no different with only one performance in my top five having been seen, though there could still be a case made for a couple others that fall just below my cut line.

To begin, my number one is Michael Fassbender and his performance in Steve Jobs. Fassbender has been nominated once before and given the fact we’re talking about an actor playing a prolific, real-life character, that has all the ear marks of an Oscar-nominated performance. Add to that the supporting talent in front of and behind the camera and this is a movie that could very easily take home several nominations, if not a lot of hardware.

Next is Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. He’s starring in the newest film from the latest Oscar-winning director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and he’s been nominated as an actor four times before. I love DiCaprio as an actor and would love to see him finally take home a statue so, for me, this is about more than “it’s his time”, but that’s a narrative I can very easily see guiding the Academy’s decision should the film prove to be as good as we all want it to be.

Michael Caine has the only performance that has been seen so far and he impressed a lot of people with his work in Youth in Cannes earlier this year. Caine is no stranger to Oscar, winning twice before and having been nominated six times overall, his last nomination came in 2003 for The Quiet American and he could very easily become this year’s sentimental vote.

I assume many will have Eddie Redmayne, who won last year for his work in The Theory of Everything, on their topline as he stars in The Danish Girl as Einar Wegener, a Danish artist who became the first ever sex-change patient. Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) directs and this is a role that has a certain timeliness that will generate a lot of heat come this year’s awards season. Personally, I think a nomination is in the bag, sight unseen. However, can Redmayne become a back-to-back winner at the Oscars? Especially with the crop of names surrounding him in this year’s field?

Finally, my fifth position was a tough one. I almost went with Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), but the early year release date and the fact Roadside isn’t exactly a cash cow means a legitimate Oscar campaign might be tough to keep his name in the spotlight. It’s also tough to decide where Jake Gyllenhaal will land this year. Harvey Weinstein has already promised a nomination for his work in Southpaw, but the one I see as being more likely to generate heat for the actor is Jean-Marc Vallée‘s Demolition, largely due to the fact it’s a late year release while Southpaw hits theaters this month and while early reviews praise Jake, the film, it sounds, is a bit more routine.

So, that said, I went with Tom Hiddleston as legendary country singer Hank Williams in I Saw the Light. Hiddleston is an ever-emerging name in Hollywood and the very best thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s high time he got some recognition (which he deserved for Only Lovers Left Alive) outside of playing a comic book villain. Sony Classics recently dated the film with an awards-friendly late-November release date, but I assume the buzz for this one will arrive a couple months earlier at the fall film festival circuit.

All that said, here’s my ordered top five to begin the season and you can find my full, ranked list of 30 contenders right here.

  1. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
  3. Michael Caine (Youth)
  4. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
  5. Tom Hiddleston (I Saw the Light)

I will continue to open the doors to more and more categories over the course of this week and next, but please, share your thoughts and predictions in the comments below and don’t forget to look at the full field here.