And the Oscar goes to..
Leonardo DiCaprio has always been the bridesmaid, never the bride at the Oscars. But after a string of acting nominations (five) that began when he was just 19 years old (for What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), it's high time for this Hollywood prince to find his place under the Oscar sun-not only for his prodigious body of work, but also because he deserves the best actor award for his latest thespic triumph!
In The Revenant, Leo delivers a finely nuanced portrayal that doesn't require dialogue to express his character's grief and craving for vengeance. His expected win is made sweeter by the fact that Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Matt Damon (The Martian), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) also turn in award-worthy portrayals in their respective starrers.
Redmayne is particularly memorable is his role as male-to-female transgender Lily Erbe-but, he won an Oscar last year for playing another real-life character, physicist Stephen Hawking, in Theory of Everything, so another win this year seems like a long shot.
Does Will Smith (Concussion) deserve to be on this list, as his wife Jada's rants suggest? Not really. Will's earnest performance is weighed down by his distractingly uneven accent.
What about Idris Elba? He may have been outstanding in Beast of No Nation, but he wasn't really the lead actor in it.
Let's call a spade a spade-after all, good acting isn't about a performer's skin color or country of affiliation or origin. If there are other actors who could have given the aforementioned Oscar quintet a run for their money, we would have placed out bets on Mark Ruffalo (for Infinitely Polar Bear), Johnny Depp (Black Mass) or Tom Hardy playing a dual role as the Kray twins in Legend.
Speaking of snubs, we would have wanted Jane Fonda to pick up at least a nomination in the best supporting actress derby, where Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), Rooney Mara (Carol), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) and Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) are slugging it out.
Cast as a proud actress past her prime in Paolo Sorrentino's Youth, her disconcerting tantrum on a plane allows the fabulous actress to chew up the scenery in the Italian filmmaker's off-kilter comedy-drama.
Without Fonda, the race for best supporting actress is a tossup between Vikander (Ex Machina), indie cinema's current it girl, and Winslet, who accomplishes another vanishing act as Steve Jobs' tough-talking confidant. (The sequence where Winslet lectures Fassbender about the tricks of parenting is one of our favorite dramatic confrontations this season.)
Who will win? Our bet is on Winslet, but Vikander, who's exquisite and poignantly moving as the supportive wife of a transgender artist in The Danish Girl, is expected to romp off with the golden statuette.
Sentimental favorite Sylvester Stallone has a lock on the best supporting actor trophy because, in Creed, he plays the same role (as boxer Rocky Balboa) that earned him his first and only other Oscar acting nomination 40 years ago!
So, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Christian Bale (The Big Short) will have to take the back seat and let Sly enjoy his rare moment of acting acclaim.
Brie Larson is also expected to seize the spotlight from her conominees, Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) and the divine Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), come Oscar night.
As a mother held captive for seven years in Room, it's hard not to get blown away by the dramatic power Larson unleashes as she conveys her character's aching helplessness-and uncompromising love for her impressionable 5-year-old son!
It's harder to predict the winner in the best picture derby, however: In a lineup that includes films by Alejandro Gonzalez INarritu (The Revenant), who's expected to win best director, Spotlight by Tom McCarthy, The Big Short by Adam McKay, The Martian by Ridley Scott, Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller, Bridge of Spies by Steven Spielberg, Brooklyn by John Crowley, and Room by Lenny Abrahamson, we grudgingly choose Spotlight over The Revenant because of its double-edged thematic pertinence: It reiterates the power of the pen to right wrongs-and the danger of blind faith!