Oscars 2024: From Cillian Murphy to Bradley Cooper, a guide to Best Actor | Hollywood - Hindustan Times
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Oscars 2024: From Cillian Murphy to Paul Giamatti and Bradley Cooper, a guide to Best Actor

Mar 09, 2024 06:53 AM IST

Leaving aside Bradley Cooper, the list of nominees looks like a who’s who of supporting actors from Paul Giamatti to Jeffrey Wright.

Oscars 2024: Who will win Best Actor in a Leading Role? Front runner Cillian Murphy’s haunted Oppenheimer, overdue Paul Giamatti’s strict Mr Hunham or dark horse Jeffrey Wright’s frustrated Thelonius ‘Monk’ Ellison? (Also Read | Oscars 2024: From Christopher Nolan to Martin Scorsese and Yorgos Lanthimos, a guide to Best Director)

Cillian Murphy in a still from Oppenheimer (L); Bradley Cooper in Maestro.
Cillian Murphy in a still from Oppenheimer (L); Bradley Cooper in Maestro.

This year is a bit of a switcheroo between the Actor and Supporting Actor categories. Leaving aside Bradley Cooper, the list of nominees looks like a who’s who of supporting actors from Paul Giamatti to Jeffrey Wright. Meanwhile, the Supporting Actor field has Robert De Niro, Robert Downey Jr., and Ryan Gosling, each of whom would usually be thought of as a leading man. The lead actor race looked like it might be a two-horse race with Cillian and Paul, but it’s now a lock for the Irishman.

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BRADLEY COOPER - Maestro

Bradley Cooper will be seen as composer Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.
Bradley Cooper will be seen as composer Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.

Bradley Cooper completely transforms himself to play the conductor-composer, Leonard Bernstein. It’s not just the nose (though it works), Bradley convincingly embodies Bernstein from his 20s all the way to his 70s. He nails the physicality and the voice, transforming ever so slightly through the years. The scene where he conducts Mahler at Ely Cathedral scene is an undeniable highlight of his performance, but Bradley is just as magnetic in the quiet moments with Carey Mulligan’s Felicia Montealegre.

COLMAN DOMINGO - Rustin

Colman Domingo in a still from Rustin.
Colman Domingo in a still from Rustin.

A run-of-the-mill biopic about civil rights leader Bayard Rustin is lifted by Colman Domingo’s terrific and energetic titular performance. Colman has been turning in great supporting work in the last few years in a number of movies, including If Beale Street Could Talk and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It’s a great showcase for Domingo, who should hopefully parlay this attention into a few big roles in mainstream movies.

PAUL GIAMATTI - The Holdovers

A still from Alexander Payne's dramedy The Holdovers.
A still from Alexander Payne's dramedy The Holdovers.

Paul Giamatti teams up with old pal Sideways director Alexander Payne for another knockout performance. Paul plays a curmudgeonly instructor at a New England Prep School who unexpectedly bonds with one of the students, newcomer Dominic Sessa, with the help of Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s recently bereaved cafeteria manager. To be honest, this is the kind of role that Paul could do in his sleep, but he’s just so good at it. He hasn’t won an Oscar yet, but he’s always great to watch, regardless of the size of the role.

CILLIAN MURPHY - Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt in a still from Oppenheimer.(AP)
Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt in a still from Oppenheimer.(AP)

Irish actor Cillian Murphy finally gets a chance to shine in a Christopher Nolan movie after playing second fiddle for him for so many years. Cillian’s performance is a technical triumph, and he is fully aware of how big his face looks in IMAX and how to precisely calibrate every micro-expression. Sure, the supporting actor nomination went to Downey Jr., but it’s Murphy’s back-and-forth with Matt Damon that is the most enjoyable part of a serious and overlong movie.

JEFFREY WRIGHT - American Fiction

Jeffrey Wright in a still from American Fiction.
Jeffrey Wright in a still from American Fiction.

Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction sits at the intersection of race satire and family drama, and Jeffrey Wright’s understated performance helps bridge those two disparate genres. Jeffrey plays Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison with a wry effect, just barely hinting at the superiority complex underneath. Jeffrey’s lived-in comfort with the actors playing his family goes a long way in suggesting years of backstory and repressed trauma. He’s been a dependable supporting actor for over two decades now, and it’s great to see him at the centre of a story that allows him to flex his talents.

Honourable Mentions:

No list of the year’s best performances is complete without a nod to Andrew Scott’s haunting portrayal of a young man trying to reconcile with his parent’s memories in All of Us Strangers. And even though perennial nominee Leonardo DiCaprio was snubbed, that shouldn’t be seen as a knock against his performance. As Ernest Burkhart, he manages to be charming, slimy, loving, astoundingly stupid, and downright evil, sometimes all within the same scene.

Read more from our coverage of the Awards Season 2024 here.

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