Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Does "The Fifth Estate" Predict Cumberbatch's Best Actor Nomination?

Left to right: Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl
Hours after posting my piece on one of my most anticipated movies of the year, 12 Years a Slave, a trailer for director Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate is released. The irony lies in how insistent I was that this would be Benedict Cumberbatch's chance at an Oscar nomination. It doesn't seem that far fetched, considering that this almost seems to be similar to The Social Network in terms of relevancy to the modern era and the reliance on computers. What the trailer delivers is a glimpse into Cumberbatch's take on Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Is it a look into potentially one of the most celebrated performances of the year?

I must provide credit to the person who convinced me that this film had potential. Mike, of Mike's Reviews and co-founder of Films with Friends, has become an acquaintance over the past year and is a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch from his work on the BBC series Sherlock. Over time, he has convinced me that Cumberbatch may be one to keep an eye out for, even if he was unmemorable in this summer's Star Trek Into Darkness. Since, I have been excited to see his rise and wonder if possibly this could be his shot at a Best Actor nomination. 

The trailer itself looks to be an appealing film:

The one concern is that Bill Condon's last credit was Breaking Dawn: Part 2, which while hailed as one of the franchise's better entries, isn't necessarily high praise. However, he has a more impressive body of work than this title suggests. His filmography includes directing Dreamgirls, co-writing Best Picture winner Chicago (he was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay), and won Best Adapted Screenplay for Gods and Monsters. He is an established director who seems to be able to get the best out of people, including turning out Eddie Murphy's best performance in years with Dreamgirls, for which he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

There is only hope that with a far more qualified, trained actor like Cumberbatch that the performance shouldn't be as hard to merit. He has proven himself capable in the past and has even been in a handful of past Oscar nominated films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Atonement. While he hasn't gotten any recognition for his work, he is looking to pull a major leap forward this year potentially with both 12 Years a Slave and The Fifth Estate. While I made my case earlier that Michael Fassbender would be the Best Supporting Actor from the former, here is why Cumberbatch may stand a better chance in the latter.

Go back to 2006. For many, Leonardo diCaprio was the clear favorite from The Departed to get nominated for Best Supporting Actor. As history will show, Mark Wahlberg actually received the nomination over diCaprio. Why was this? It was because that diCaprio saw that he didn't want to compete against a co-star and decided to instead got nominated for Best Actor for Blood Diamond. While it could be seen as a cop-out of sorts, it also is reflective of not wanting to be too aggressive when it came to competition in the category, as he stood a better shot in the Best Actor field. Of course, he hasn't won yet, but wait until The Wolf of Wall Street for a potential upset. 

This is why I feel that Cumberbatch stands a better shot for The Fifth Estate. Provided that the movie is good, there is enough weight behind the film to potentially get him a nomination. One of the biases among the Academy is people who play real-life people. This is how Jesse Eisenberg got a Best Actor nomination for The Social Network. While theoretically different, these performances share enough of a computer nerd renegade who changed the world to parallel each other. The only question is if the film stands to win. Also, since The Wolf of Wall Street could potentially cause The Fifth Estate's political motives to seem overwhelming in comparison, we must be wary of how those two films interact.

There isn't a lot to go off as of now, but provided that my speculation right now turns out to be true, there is some redemption in 2013 for the Oscar season. I don't want to set too much in stone right now, but based on the trailer, things are starting to heat up. Who knows, even my theory that this will be a Julian Assange double-feature at the Oscars (the other being documentary We Steal Secrets) may come true. This could be a big year for WikiLeaks as well as Cumberbatch.

What do you think of the trailer? Is Benedict Cumberbatch capable of getting into the Best Actor race? Will Leonardo diCaprio crush his chances?

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