Off and running: though the Oscars are still months away, it's never too early for the buzz around performances to begin.
MICHAEL CAINE "Youth"
The two-time Oscar winner hits a high note as a retired orchestra conductor on vacation in the Alps in the latest from Paolo Sorrentino. Caine perfectly captures the regrets and melancholy of a once-great artist.
The industry loves Cranston and also loves movies about movies--though this is a darker take on Hollywood, as he plays screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose career was virtually ruined by the McCarthy-era Blacklist.
"The Big Short"
A year after his first Oscar nod for "Foxcatcher," Carell could repeat for a very different role, starring in the housing crisis drama alongside Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.
Courtenay plays a man who examines his life as he hears news about a long-ago romance, pre-marriage. He is funny, gritty and ultimately heartbreaking.
It's the undisputed hit of the season and Damon is largely a one-man show for most of it. He's also beloved by the industry; filming the latest "Bourne" has kept him off the circuit but love for him and "The Martian" could make him a player.
It's a return to form for the thrice-nominated actor, who is virtually unrecognizable as gangster Whitey Bulger. With a steely stare and a terrifying bravado, Depp reminds us there's a great actor under the star.
Even before a single frame of film was seen, DiCaprio was considered the frontrunner. The four-time acting nominee plays an 1800s frontiersman left for dead and hell-bent on revenge.
The actor spits out Aaron Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue like a pro and isn't afraid to be unsympathetic as the late Apple genius. Though he's not big on the campaign circuit, he's earned a spot in the line-up.
"Bridge of Spies"
What could be better than two-time Oscar winner Hanks reuniting with Steven Spielberg in a Cold War drama? Hanks is typically flawless as a lawyer who defends a Russian spy.
Hardy dazzles as British gangsters Reggie and Ronald Kray, so believably creating two separate characters that you almost forget it's the same actor playing them.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON
"The Hateful Eight"
After several collaborations with Quentin Tarantino, Jackson steps into the lead role as a bounty hunter trapped in a blizzard with several other unsavory folks.
"The Danish Girl"
Last year's victor could return to the race with his portrayal of Lili Elbe, one of the first transgender women to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. It's another transformative turn from the man who played Stephen Hawking.
The renowned McKellen reunites with his "Gods & Monsters" director Bill Condon to play a long-retired Sherlock Holmes. Though his memory Is fading, his spry wit Is intact, and McKellen Is a delight.
The star has two previous Oscar noms for playing real-life people and the third could be the charm. As the doctor who takes on the NFL after uncovering brain damage in players, Smith radiates intelligence while commanding the screen.
"I'll See You in My Dreams" The beloved Danner takes the lead in a sweet film that finds her widow embarking on new romances and friendships, while trying to mend her relationship with her daughter.
"Carol" and "Truth" Blanchett is all but guaranteed a nom, but for which movie? The smart money is on her 1950s housewife embarking a lesbian romance in "Carol," but don't count out her turn as "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes in "Truth."
The always-excellent Blunt shines as an FBI agent who finds herself in over her head moving into the world of drug cartels. It's the most subtle role In the film, but her expressions speak volumes.
"Our Brand Is Crisis"
While the film failed to burn up the box office, never underestimate the star power of Bullock. The Oscar winner is funny and endearing as a campaign strategist sent to help win a Bolivian election.
"Woman in Gold"
Mirren brings her regal bearing to the true story of a Jewish woman seeking to recover family heirlooms seized by the Nazis. The title refers to one of the paintings, but it could be Mirren on Oscar night.
She's been building up a strong fan base for years, especially since "Short Term 12," Playing a woman held captive in a single room raising a young son, Larson might just be the one to beat.
"The Lady in the Van"
Smith could earn a seventh Oscar nomination for her work as an eccentric woman who lived in her van for 15 years outside the home of writer Alan Bennett. It's one of Smith's best performances, and voters will love it, if they see it.
The always-excellent Ronan, last nominated at age 13 for "Atonement," is luminous as an Irish immigrant dealing with homesickness, love and loss in a film that is adored by critics.
She isn't always easy to love, but Tomlin's Elle Reid Is sure fun to go on a journey with as the tough-talking, no-nonsense grandmother spends a day trying to raise funds for her granddaughter's abortion.
Rampling makes a strong bid for her first Oscar nomination as the center of Andrew Haigh's film. She has many quiet moments in long takes, showing a lifetime of ups and downs, love and regret.
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
The title character may be Mad Max, but it's Theron's Imperator Furiosa who steals the show. Whether she's outrunning adversaries through the desert or In hand-to-hand combat with a mechanical hand, you can't take your eyes off her.
Lawrence won an Oscar for her first collaboration with writer-director David 0. Russell, and they're reunited here. She's front and center through the entire film and an Academy fave.
Mulligan shines as a working class wife and mother who is drawn into the suffragette movement in Britain. Though it costs her everything--including her family and freedom--you feel her passion in every moment.
"Love & Mercy"
While John Cusack plays the older Brian Wilson, Dano portrays the younger version of the Beach Boys maven, at the height of his creativity and the depth of his mental anguish.
ROBERT DE NIRO
The living legend and two-time Oscar winner plays the father of Jennifer Lawrence's titular inventor and gets a chance to show his soft and funny side.
One of our great character actors, Keitel shares a wonderful chemistry with Michael Caine as a pair of friends on vacation at a spa. Plus, he plays a filmmaker, which is catnip to voters.
"Bridge of Spies"
The real-life Soviet spy Rudolf Abel wanted to be nearly invisible, so it's ironic that Rylance gives one of the year's most vivid and notable performances. He adds humor and charm to a person considered a villain to most of America.
Hardy portrays the main nemesis of Leonardo DiCaprio's left-for-dead frontiersman. Always a commanding presence on screen, his outstanding turn in "Legend" could boost his odds.
"The End of the Tour"
The funnyman surprised even his biggest fans with a tender, sensitive portrait of troubled genius David Foster Wallace during the tour for his book "Infinite Jest." An accomplished writer himself, Segal nails the joy and pain of creativity.
"Straight Outta Compton"
The unknown actor exploded onto the scene with a breathtaking turn as N.W.A star Eazy-E. His complicated relationships with his bandmates and their manager provide some of the film's best scenes.
Not many actors can go head-to-head with Johnny Depp's Whitey Bulger and stand out, but Edgerton's conflicted FBI agent John Connolly has a fascinating arc all his own. Edgerton has long been underappreciated; it's time for voters to notice.
Last year's presumed runner-up for lead actor has a lot of goodwill to bank on. And he's fantastic as the compassionate, flawed editor who helps breaks the Catholic Church scandal.
In the hands of a lesser actor, Rick Carver--a real estate broker who evicts people from their homes--could have been a cardboard villain. But the Oscar nominee creates a fully realized human, which makes him all the more terrifying.
BENICIO DEL TORO
Del Toro won in this category for 2000's "Traffic," another thriller set in the world of drugs. But his "Sicario" character is a completely new creation; a haunted man bent on revenge.
"Beasts of No Nation"
As the brutal "Commandant" who rules over his child soldiers, the British actor is utterly terrifying. And despite the film's lack of box office, he'll be difficult to ignore.
As one of the journalists who breaks the Catholic Church scandal, Ruffalo is often the raging voice of anger. Juicy scenes and a widespread respect could land him back here after last year's "Foxcatcher" nom.
The breakthrough of the year, 9-year-old Tremblay commands every scene as Jack, a 5-year-old boy who has lived his life in captivity with his mother.
A reminder that not every great performance needs a showy moment, Allen is the picture of grace and resilience as the mother of a young girl held for seven years in captivity.
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH
"The Hateful Eight"
As the sole female amongst the band of troublemakers in Quentin Tarantino's latest, Leigh is set to stand out as a bounty hunter's prisoner. It's hard to believe in her long and heralded career, she's never been nominated.
"Love and Mercy"
Banks embodies both qualities of the film's title.
She plays Melinda Ledbetter, who brought sanity and strength to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Banks is great in a character that could have been one-dimensional virtuous.
In a total 180 of her Oscar-nominated "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" turn, Mara turns in a quiet, subtle performance as a lonely shopkeeper who falls for Cate Blanchett's wealthy divorcee.
She only speaks in one scene, but it's a doozy -Fonda tears through her role as the actress muse to Harvey Keitel's filmmaker in a fantastic confrontation. It's both ugly and beautiful.
McAdams plays the only female reporter on the spotlight team that cracks the Catholic Church abuse case. Her scenes concerning her staunchly Catholic grandmother could push her Into the race.
Mirren has a blast--as does the audience--as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. She's a thorn in the side of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, but we have a great time watching her.
"Secret in Their Eyes"
Roberts strips away the glamour to portray the grief-stricken mother of a murdered girl. It's gut-wrenching stuff, and she never hits a false note.
Rossellini has never been nominated but her turn as a wealthy widow who helps fund Joy's invention, and dates Joy's father, could be her break.
"The Danish Girl"
Star-in-the-making Vikander is excellent as Gerda Wegener, the wife of transgender Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne). It's every bit her film as much as Redmayne's, and she soars.
As Joanna Hoffman, the confidante to Michael Fassbender's titular genius, Winslet plays the one person he treats with constant respect. Smart and steely, she goes toe-to-toe with difficult the Jobs, but you can always feel the respect.
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|Title Annotation:||CONTENDERS: ACTOR & ACTRESS|
|Date:||Nov 19, 2015|
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