Both are effective period pieces. Both have casts full of brilliant actors playing believable characters. Both are based on true stories in America's history that few people know about. But “12 Years” has the emotional edge on “Hustle,” and I expect it to be the big winner tonight.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Christian Bale ("American Hustle"), Bruce Dern ("Nebraska"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street"), Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave"), Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club")
Who will win: Matthew McConaughey was brilliant in “Dallas Buyers Club,” which was another contender for my favorite movie of the year. McConaughey had to lose more than 45 pounds to play the role of a homophobic rodeo cowboy who learns he has HIV and 30 days to live at the start of the film. But let's forget the weight loss for a second.
Not so long ago McConaughey was starring in shallow and trite rom-coms, cashing checks and keeping his massive acting potential hidden away. Several years ago he made the decision to start taking some chances and forget about the Benjamins for a while in the name of honing his craft and feeling challenged.
I'm so glad he did. McConaughey's portrayal of Ron Woodroof is just one example of brilliant characters he's breathed life into recently (see “Mud,” “Magic Mike” and HBO's “True Detective”). I'd like to see him rewarded for it, and I think he will be.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Amy Adams ("American Hustle"), Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine"), Sandra Bullock ("Gravity"), Judi Dench ("Philomena"), Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County")
Who will win: When Awards Season was just getting started in January, nobody was talking about Woody Allen's “Blue Jasmine,” so I wasn't sure the film would have enough momentum to shed proper light on Cate Blanchett's portrayal of the title character.