The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently announced the nominees for the 95th Academy Awards (2023 Oscars). Now that the dust has settled and the nominations have been secured, the campaigning has only just begun for this group of nominees.
Who will win the coveted prize of Best Actor? The five nominees encompass big-budget spectacles (Elvis), dark comedies (The Banshees of Inisherin), an adaptation of a stage play with a comeback role for a 1990s star (The Whale), a rare leading showcase for a veteran British character actor (Living), and a quiet indie drama that boasts a star-is-born performance (Aftersun).
The “King of Rock and Roll” received the biopic treatment in Elvis. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the film stars Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, an up-and-coming singer who rises to superstardom thanks to his deep voice, sexual appeal, and unorthodox dance moves. The film is told through the eyes of Elvis’s longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), the former carnival peddler who helped turn Elvis into the biggest solo act in America.
The enthralling concert scenes are fascinating, especially the If I Can Dream performance. Butler’s transformation as Elvis is seamless, and his performance garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Elvis collected eight Oscar nominations in all, including, Best Picture, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design.
What happens when a man wakes up one day and decides to end a lifelong friendship? This premise plays out with hilarious, sad, and shocking results in Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin. On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) decides to cut off his friendship with Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell). Colm believes Pádraic is “dull” and wants to spend the rest of his life composing music instead.
Offended and hurt, Pádraic tries to win Colm back with the help of his sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), and a local boy, Dominic Kearney (Barry Keoghan). Angered by Pádraic’s persistence, Colm presents Pádraic with an ultimatum that leads to devastating (and bloody) consequences. Banshees is one of the best-acted films of the year thanks to strong performances from the four performers, but Farrell stands out with his turn as the sad-sack Paddy. It’s hard to play “nice” and “desperate” at the same time, but Farrell finds a way, and gives one of the best performances in his underrated career.
In Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, Brendan Fraser plays Charlie, an obese college English professor who is slowly killing himself by overeating and avoiding medical treatment. Over the course of the film, he comes to terms with his life, including his relationship with the daughter (Sadie Sink) he abandoned when she was eight and a best friend (Hong Chau, also nominated for Best Supporting Actress) who tries to save his life.
In perhaps the biggest role of his career, the one-time star of such blockbusters as The Mummy films and indie movies likes Gods and Monsters shines as Charlie. This is a comeback role for Fraser, who hasn’t had a hit in years and showcases previously unexplored dramatic depths. It’s a wonderful performance in a mediocre picture, and he deserves all the accolades he’s receiving.
A young Scottish father (Paul Mescal) takes his preteen daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on a vacation in Turkey. As the movie progresses, it’s gradually revealed that the audience is witnessing an adult Sophie’s memories of her time with her father, who has always been a stranger to her for undisclosed reasons.
Charlotte Wells’ directorial debut, Aftersun is an open-hearted, tender piece of filmmaking. It crackles and vibrates with the same kind of lived-in intimacy that has defined the works of filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Terrence Malick. Mescal turns in one of the year’s more well-calibrated, lived-in performances. He, in collaboration with Wells, builds a complete character out of nothing more than a series of short emotional breaks and long, contemplative silences. It’s a star-making performance, and also one that will stand the test of time.
In Living, Bill Nighy stars as Mr. Williams, a career civil servant in 1950s London who is fed up with his paper-pushing life. After learning of a life-altering event, he decides to make the most of his life before it’s too late.
While Nighy is probably bes- known for his comedic role as debauched rock singer Billy Mack in 2003’s Love Actually, the veteran actor has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows throughout the decades. With Living, he finally gets a leading role to showcase his considerable talents. Living also received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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