With the special night almost here, Moviefone will be releasing a set of staff predictions each day this week (in countdown fashion) for the six major categories. We kicked it off yesterday with Best Picture, and now turn our attention to another hotly-contested race -- Best Actor.
We've already given you the beat on the Best Actor nominees, so now let's break down our favorites to win the award. Here, we've listed the actors we expect to win, and then, more importantly, who we think should win.
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey. There's no denying McConaughey's transformative turn as womanizer-turned-AIDS patient advocate Ron Woodroof was one of the best performances of the year. And the Academy loves it when actors go to extremes for a role: losing weight (Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia"), gaining weight (Robert De Niro, "Raging Bull"), de-beautification (Charlize Theron, "Monster"; Halle Berry, "Monster's Ball"), etc., so it's no surprise the actor's already picked up a Golden Globe and SAG award. If you want to increase your Oscar chances, just lose or gain a dangerous amount of body mass.
Who Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor. It's frustrating to see McConaughey as such a strong frontrunner for Best Actor when Ejiofor's Solomon Northrup is, hands down, the best performance of the year. Don't get me wrong; I'm not discounting McConaughey's work (he did an exemplary job), but Ejiofor's constrained, nuanced, and inherently heartbreaking turn as Northrup is superior.
Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though I don't think its his best performance, Leo's taking it because he's been nominated enough times and that's all the justification the Academy needs to give it him now.
Who Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor. Even though McConaughey went through a surprising physical transformation for "DBC," Chiwetel's performance in "12 Years" feels the most "lived-in" -- his lack of relative stateside fame allowed him to disappear into the character of Solomon Northup completely and give the most emotionally exhaustive performance of the year (that's a compliment).
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey. If you haven't heard by now, it's the McConaughssance, ya'll. Moviegoers and members of various awards voting academies alike have been caught up in the frenzy. McConaughey does turn in a solid performance, with extra points for his amazing physical transformation. Does that equal award-worthy, or just "alright, alright?" I'm still on the fence. But if I was a betting woman I'd put money on the Academy giving McConaughey his first Oscar, despite that awkward SAG acceptance speech.
Who Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor. Full disclosure: my decision for this category is based 90% on merit and 10% on the fact that I would like to hang out with Chiwetel Ejiofor and call him Chewy and say things like "Oh, Chewy you crack me up! Let's go get some fro-yo. Bring your Oscar."
Possible Upset: Bruce Dern. There's a chance the Academy could give the honor to Hollywood veteran Bruce Dern for his role as crotchety old guy Woody Grant (not to be confused with actual crotchety old guy Bruce Dern) in "Nebraska." The film has been well received and some voters may consider a win for Bruce a nod to his long career and some of his previous work.
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey. The Academy loves dramatic weight loss (or gain) and there's little question that will benefit McConaughey, who looks emaciated for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club." Yes, Christian Bale put on a significant amount of weight for "American Hustle," but weight fluctuation has become expected for Bale -- something I believe will lead voters to overlook him this year. On the other hand, McConaughey is still seen as the guy who did "Failure to Launch" and "Fool's Gold," so such a drastic departure from those types of films has voters' ears perked up. He has swept the major awards thus far and seems (practically) unbeatable.
Who Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor. It's hard to put Ejiofor's role into words and that's what makes it so memorable. Ejiofor is a classically-trained British actor and it shows in the way he harnesses his character's feelings. Many actors would have worn their emotions on their sleeves, but Ejiofor waits for his feelings of fear, sadness, numbness, and, eventually, bliss to slowly boil over and ooze out over time, making certain moments all the more powerful. Just pay careful attention to Ejiofor's face throughout the film and you'll know why he's deserving of the Oscar. It says it all.
What's your pick? Tell us in the comments below, and find out which star wins Best Actor when the Oscars air live Sunday, March 2 at 7 ET / 4 PT on ABC.
Related Article: Oscar Predictions 2014: What Movie Will Win Best Picture?