The one thing that is very clear in this category is that Sylvester Stallone is the clear frontrunner. He has already won the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Award, has the momentum on his side, as well as nostalgia and the sentimental vote. Sylvester Stallone is a Hollywood legend and will forever be immortalized as Rocky Balboa. Furthermore, this is Stallone’s first Oscar nomination since 1976, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of Rocky. Many can argue that the performance from Stallone may not be much of a stretch considering the Rocky franchise has spawned 4 sequels, but his performance in Creed is one that completely deviates from the famous role. We now see Rocky as a coach and mentor, and also as someone who is now seeing his mortality before him as an older individual. What makes the performance outstanding was how Stallone utilized his character’s dense past and applied it to an older Rocky, who recognizes his legacy will ultimately outlive himself. The performance has a beautiful poignancy to it, bringing the story of Rocky Balboa full circle. In short, Stallone deserves the Oscar.
However, there is one glitch with Stallone’s Oscar chances: He did not get a SAG nomination. While this may not seem like a big deal, it actually is. In the last 10 years, there has only been 1 Oscar winner who wasn’t nominated for an SAG: Christoph Waltz in 2012 for Django Unchained. Therefore, to not be nominated for an SAG yet win the Oscar is exceedingly rare. However, this year’s SAGs were also very telling.
Idris Elba, who was grossly snubbed for Beasts of No Nation, was rightfully awarded the SAG for his performance. What is telling from Elba’s SAG win was who did not win. Christian Bale, Mark Rylance, and Mark Ruffalo, all Oscar nominees this year, lost to Elba. This still allows for Stallone to maintain his edge going into the Oscars.
The other vulnerability to Sylvester Stallone is that he didn’t receive a BAFTA nomination either. Like the SAGs, it is exceedingly rare to win the Oscars without this very important precursor. In the last 10 years, only once has someone won the Oscar without a BAFTA nomination: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. Yet this is a double negative for Stallone. If he were to win the Oscar, he would be the first time in 10 years that someone went onto winning an Oscar without the necessary SAG or BAFTA nominations.
Mark Rylance won the BAFTA and was the best part of Bridge of Spies, which gives him some momentum. Rylance has had a spectacular year in both television (Wolf Hall, which he won his SAG for) and film. Voters recognize his talent and that might give him the surprise push he needs to win. However, Rylance’s limited screentime in Bridge of Spies’ second half will undoubtedly be a negative and might hinder his chances. Nonetheless, his performance stays with you long after the film has concluded.
Regarding nominees who are in films that are in the frontrunner status for Best Picture, Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo both could benefit from a momentum push if their respective films were to win Best Picture. The Big Short and Spotlight are seemingly the two of three films fighting for Best Picture and that could very much be enough to give either Bale or Ruffalo the push to win.
The third film fighting for Best Picture, which contains the wildcard nomination is The Revenant. The real threat to Stallone is Tom Hardy. This is because he is the wild card nomination, who has not gotten a Golden Globe, SAG, or BAFTA nomination, which makes his Oscar traction difficult to track and predict. The only indicator is the Critics Choice Award, which he was nominated for, and was defeated by Stallone. Yet there is one other thing that will be difficult for voters to ignore and makes Stallone’s chances very vulnerable: Tom Hardy starred in two films that are nominated for Best Picture. Not only is Hardy nominated for his vile performance in The Revenant, but he is also the lead role in Mad Max: Fury Road. The Academy voters are showing Mad Max tremendous love this year, which would indicate that Tom Hardy would be at the forefront of their minds. Additionally, his performances between The Revenant and Mad Max are polar opposites: Hero and Villain. This, too, will be exceedingly difficult for voters to ignore. Most importantly, Tom Hardy was the perfect adversary to Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. It is further remarkable that Hardy was able to offer incredible humanity to an otherwise revolting person. His role was equal in acting skill in comparison with DiCaprio’s. Without a flawless performance from Hardy, DiCaprio’s own performance wouldn’t have had the impact it had with audiences.
Be poised for the potential of a Tom Hardy upset on Oscar night or a nostalgia-induced win for Stallone. The precursor awards cannot indicate who a genuine frontrunner is, which mean, this category could go in any direction.
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Will Win: Sylvester Stallone
Could Win: Tom Hardy
Should Win: Sylvester Stallone or Tom Hardy
Could Upset: Mark Rylance