Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
With the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman (Christian Bale) has been able to keep a tight lid on crime in Gotham City. But when the Joker (Heath Ledger) suddenly throws the town into chaos, the caped Crusader begins to tread a fine line between heroism and vigilantism.
Since the past several years has been widely dominated by Marvel, and DCEU, it's hard to remember when casting news for a superhero movie truly stood out. After getting obsessed with Batman Begins, I was watching what could happen with The Dark Knight. For a long time, rumors seemed settled on Danny Huston as the Joker and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin until things started to swing in a different direction and Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker. The excitement - for two of my favorite actors in one film Christian Bale and Heath - was huge. After Heath's passing, it was difficult to imagine what his performance would be like except to trust that it would come together. And, it did - all eight times that I saw it in theaters. There are a lot of good performances, but not as many where the actors can truly lose themselves in (Joaquin Phoenix's "Joker" does not count). The closest most bittersweet win at the Oscars for me, compared to Heath's, will probably be Chadwick's this April. It's just rare for actors like them to come along.
Viola Davis – Fences
Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Bitter over his missed opportunity of becoming a baseball player, Troy creates further tension in his family when he squashes his son's (Jovan Adepo) chance to meet a college football recruiter.
I'd very much like to know how an actress who has significant influence on the plot and more or less the same screen time gets a Best Supporting nomination but her counterpart usually gets Best Leading. It's an Oscars riddle, I don't know if I'll ever solve it. But I think Viola was more than qualified to earn the same title as Denzel for her riveting performance - both starred in the stage production too. Who doesn't hear her heartbreaking monologue in their heads just thinking of her performance? The staying power she has in this role is incredible.
Brad Pitt - Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio)is struggling to find meaningful work in a Hollywood and spends most of his time drinking and palling around with Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), his easygoing best friend and longtime stunt double. Rick also happens to live next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate -- the filmmaker and budding actress whose futures will forever be altered by members of the Manson Family.
I know people will write off my cinema buff card for this opinion, but Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was okay to me. I enjoyed the performances, but it's not my favorite Quentin Tarantino film nor exactly his best. And, I hate to say it - the same goes to Brad Pitt's performance. I'm more than happy that he won after years of seeing him overlooked. But there are other performances that stick out in my mind that also deserved recognition - Fight Club, Babel, Burn After Reading, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Inglorious Basterds. He's truly in command of his presence on screen after 20+ years in the business, but sometimes Oscars wins come down to right timing, right project, right contenders to face off against, which I think were just as vital influences here for him to win. And it gave us this perfect scene too too, so I can't be too dissatisfied.