You know that Oscar season has officially begun when TIFF starts taking over the city of Toronto, so since we're *just* on the cusp of the big Academy Award contenders being unleashed upon the world, here's who has the lead in my personal standings.
Best Actor: Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale Station"
So Jordan could act then, but can he act now? The answer is absolutely yes. From good roles in Friday Night Lights and Chronicle to GREAT roles like this one in "Fruitvale Station," Jordan looks like the next big thing. Oscar Grant could've easily just been played as a martyr but Jordan turns him into an actual person. Jordan's Oscar isn't a perfect man by any stretch but that makes him a better man, if that makes sense. He's always trying, striving. It's a tragedy that Grant is taken at all, but especially so because he was a man who hadn't yet reached his peak. It's a great performance that Jordan absolutely nails. It's looking like this year's Best Actor race is shaping up as one of the most accomplished in recent memory, so if Jordan ends up NOT making the final cut for an Oscar nomination, it might not be surprising but it'l be a snub nonetheless. And if there are five performances better than his this year, I'll eat my hat.
Honourable mention: Matthew McConaughey, "Mud"
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Blanchett, of course, has an Oscar already for her dinner theatre impression of Katherine Hepburn in "The Aviator," one of the most inexplicable Academy decisions in recent years. That just shouldn't be. It would be fitting with Blanchett's persona that she have two Oscars --- one for a bad performance and one for a great one. She's like the Harvey Dent of acting. I think she's the favourite to beat at this point, though a number of well-known actresses are coming up in big roles throughout the fall.
Honourable mention: Greta Gerwig, "Frances Ha"
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"
(I will say this was a very tough call between Hawkins and Spencer, and my decision was based on which was the trickier role to pull off. If Spencer were to be nominated and win, I would have no objections at all, it's a stomach punch of a performance.)
Honourable mention: Olivia Spencer, "Fruitvale Station"
Best Supporting Actor: Danny McBride, "This Is The End"
Honourable mention: Christopher Walken, "Stand Up Guys"
Best Picture: "Mud"
There seems to be a real Matthew McConaughey renaissance going on, as ol' Wooderson is getting a lot of mileage out of twisted variations on his "handsome, stoned but intense southern guy" persona. "Mud" is maybe the best example of this phenomenon though man, it's hard to tell given McConaughey's flood of solid performances. He had three acclaimed roles in 2012 alone (in Bernie, Killer Joe and Magic Mike), he has the awesome-looking True Detective series coming up on HBO and he has two potential pieces of Oscar-bait coming up this year in "Dallas Buyers Club" (lead) and "The Wolf of Wall Street" (supporting). McConaughey's persona is so cemented in people's minds that acknowledging him as a tremendous actor may cause a few confused blinks, but hey, it's hard to argue against this recent body of work.
Honourable Mention: Frances Ha, Fruitvale Station, The Heat, This Is The End