By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The busy and seemingly endless awards season climaxes this Sunday evening, when the 87th set of Academy Awards –- those cherished “Oscars” — are dispensed at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, in front of a huge international television audience.

We’ve now gotten to the point that the Oscar outcomes seem predetermined because of consensus during the parade of less-prestigious prizes (the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and Screen Actors Guild awards) that have recently been bestowed.

That’s certainly the case in several major categories this year, so the suspense will just have to come from the few more competitive Oscar slates.

But let’s pit the results of the voting of the entire membership of the Academy of Me, Myself, and I against those 6,000+ eligible voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), starting with the races for best supporting actor and best actor.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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Based on the results of the awards parade thus far, the winner of the Oscar for best supporting actor seems a foregone conclusion, about which more later.

Robert Duvall’s nomination for his embattled title character in The Judge has more to do with his reputation and body of work than his performance here, while Ethan Hawke’s nod for his evolved father in Boyhood is an acknowledgement of his solid contribution to the ensemble.

Mark Ruffalo’s quietly effective portrayal of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in Foxcatcher salutes him for yet another skilled, admirable turn.

But it is Edward Norton’s electrifying portrait of a dangerously cocky stage actor in Birdman that gives him an outside shot at pulling an upset.

Way outside.

That’s because it’s difficult to imagine anyone other than J.K. Simmons clutching that statuette on Sunday evening.  His sadistic, tyrannical music-school mentor in Whiplash should finally turn this fully employed character actor and familiar-faced Farmers Insurance spokesman into a household name overnight.

So:
COULD WIN: Edward Norton
SHOULD WIN: J.K. Simmons
WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons

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BEST ACTOR

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This best actor category offers less of a pure coronation, and is by far the toughest to call of the acting categories.

Steve Carell, holding his happy-just-to-be-nominated banner high, has made a successful transition from comedy to drama with his rendering of wealthy eccentric John Du Pont in Foxcatcher .

Bradley Cooper’s accomplishment is similar but splashier, demonstrating in his real-life portrait of title character Chris Kyle in the blockbuster American Sniper that his range includes intense drama as well as light comedy.  Furthermore, he gains his third nomination in three years, a rare accomplishment.

And Benedict Cumberbatch’s nod for his depiction of real-life brainiac Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazis’ “Enigma” code, in The Imitation Game is his official welcoming to the inner circle with what would appear to be the first among many such nominations.

But this remains a two-horse race.

Michael Keaton’s life-imitating-art comeback in Birdman, as a former movie star who walked away from a superhero franchise, has been basking in effusive praise from the moment the dark comedy surfaced.  He’s certainly one of the front runners, but this may ultimately come down to voters choosing between comedy and drama.

On the drama side of the equation, Eddie Redmayne is brilliant in his virtual channeling of renowned, ALS-afflicted physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, with his uncanny calibration of the physical changes he was undergoing while conveying his mental and emotional state with what you might call forced minimalism.

So:
COULD WIN: Bradley Cooper
SHOULD WIN: Eddie Redmayne
WILL WIN: Michael Keaton
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NEXT: The Actresses

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