In just 10 days, festival-goers have seen way too many best-actor contenders, and there are plenty of year-end possibilities still to come. Will the Academy expand the actor race to accommodate this year’s crop? No way, but they should: The quality and quantity are amazing.
Between Telluride and Toronto, festgoers have seen Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, “Foxcatcher”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; and Bill Murray, “St. Vincent.” All had advance buzz, but several thesps suddenly emerged this past weekend in Toronto: Kevin Costner in “Black and White”; Richard Gere in “Time Out of Mind”; and Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler.”
In the BFF category (Before Fest Frenzy), Ralph Fiennes was outstanding in “Grand Budapest Hotel”; Timothy Spall won the Cannes award for “Mr. Turner,” while Miles Teller earned fans in “Whiplash” at Sundance.
There is another actor who got a lot of online awards chatter this summer: Andy Serkis in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” He’s terrific, and maybe someday a motion-capture performance will get a nomination. But don’t expect it this year. Awards voters are still oddly conservative about mo-cap, as if digital work instead of makeup or severe weight-changes mean that it’s not a “real” performance. (For a glimpse at Serkis’s work, watch an interview with “Apes” VFX expert Joe Letteri talking about work with actors.)
And there is still the fourth-quarter to go. Actors in at least six other films have been predicted as contenders: Ben Affleck, “Gone Girl”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Matthew McConaughey, “Interstellar”; Jack O’Connell, “Unbroken”; David Oyelowo, “Selma”; and Brad Pitt, “Fury.”
At this point, the big question is not who will land nominations — but why there are so many great male roles, but so few for women? The best-actress race so far includes Reese Witherspoon in “Wild,” Shailene Woodley in “The Fault in Our Stars,” Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; and Hilary Swank, “The Homesman.” There are some other prospects coming up, but logic would dictate that the two races should have some parity.
But maybe logic shouldn’t enter into awards discussions.