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Best Actor Bait. The Key Word Being Bait.

The Oscar Prediction Chart Updates continue with the leading and supporting men. Best Actor seems especially confusing this year what with so many major stars or past Oscar nominees arriving with generally infallible bait right there in the roles. Let's do a quick chart. Here are, arguably, the five most infallible types of Oscar Bait and who is serving them up. (Obviously many of these men are still awaiting critical consensus on their performances or the fourth column would be larger.)

In that chart right there I've only visually (and alphabetically) included  the top ten ranked men from my prediction chart. Now I'm even less enthused about Matt Damon's Oscar chances for Promised Land since he doesn't figure into these five columns at all. One might call him overdue if he didn't have that early writing Oscar (Good Will Hunting) but as it stands now he has no surefire hook for his Oscar campaign. This is not to say that "crisis of conscience" isn't a form of bait for leading men. That's a fairly common hook in leading roles but it's hardly the iconic carrot to dangled in front of voters like, say, debilatating suffering, addiction or ol' fashioned biographical dress up are.

If Anthony Hopkins is terrific as Hitchcock it's going to come down to the wire as to which of the top six men are given the boot on nomination morning since they're all packing serious bait as they fish for votes.

The supporting categories are the last to lock down since so much what happens there depends on coattails from leading players and Best Picture nominations. Though you can safely lock up Philip Seymour Hoffman who is already a default Oscar player before you account for his enormous amount of screen time or the kind of reviews he won for The Master. Beyond Hoffman it's still anyone's game though reactions to Lincoln, which premieres Monday at the New York Film Festival, will certainly tell us whether David Strathairn is in the hunt for his second nomination. He's currently my only predicted Supporting Actor nominee who hasn't yet won the Oscar so if he's strong and the field really turns out that way, a win wouldn't be out of the question.

As for the men who have never been nominated, I'm particularly frustrated that Michael Fassbender who was so sublime in Prometheus is fading from the conversation but I expected as much since Oscar don't do sci-fi. I'm also frustrated that Matthew McConaughey who is inarguably having the best year of his career, isn't winning traction. Frustrated by not surprised. Though Oscar himself is famously nude and male and popular with the gays, He isn't generally turned on by the sexualization of male actors. That shiny Global icon is famously resistant to the matinee idol type ignoring them altogether or making them wait until they're gray and less sexually potent for their Oscar glory. Oscar just doesn't like leading men who trade on their own eroticism. Witness the Oscar fate of Michael Fassbender in Shame last year. McConaughey's selfploitation in Magic Mike (and to a lesser but more compromising degree in The Paperboy) is probably working against him no matter how much he's stepped up his game this year. 

Which actors are you banking on at this point? Where would you flipflop contenders on our charts?

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Reader Comments (35)

The theater I work at has been running 'Turn Off Your Cell Phone' bumpers the past few days that feature footage of Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock. It's not much footage, but it does give a look at the transformation and the impersonation. Based on that bare amount of footage, I definitely could see Hopkins as a contender.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

Matthew McConaughey will probably get a Golden Globe nomination (they're much friendlier to big stars), but I don't see it carrying over to SAG, BAFTA, or critics' awards, and therefore not the Oscars either.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Also, speaking of Hitchcock, I keep wondering about James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Could be something there.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

It seems a bit weird that you excluded Hopkins from your top 5 when you predict the film to go over that well elsewhere, even in Best Picture. No matter how competitive Best Actor is, they wouldn't nominate "Hitchcock" without nominating Hitchcock, would they?

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRax

Rax - Hud, Kinsey, Shakespeare in love, Sunrise at Campobello -About FDR- and other examples wll disagree with you... They can nominate the film and costars without the lead actor...

Anyway my comments of these predictions:

ACTOR - 100% agree with you -Just maybe put Cooper before Trintignant-, but yes, right now, we have 8 real contenders -Cooper, Day-Lewis, Hawkes, Hopkins, Jackman, Phoenix, Trintignant and Washington-, if I need to put 10 contenders I could say:

01. Hugh Jackman
02. Joaquin Phoenix
03. Denzel Washington
04. Daniel Day-Lewis
05. Fox Searchlight contender - Hawkes/Hopkins
06. Hopkins/Hawkes
07. Cooper
08. Trintignant
09. Damon
10. Gyllenhaal?!

I have seen"The Sessions" and I'm not predicting Hawkes for winning the critical awards. His performance is excellent, but the film is too "lighting" with not real OMG dramatic scenes. Also with the inclussion of Hopkins by Fox Searchlight it means a lot in the trust of "The Sessions". Also, I don't think we'll have a lineup with 5 returning nominees -2011 Best Actress was clear of that-. So Jackman, Cooper and Trintignant fits exactly in that line. Finallly I think Jackman could actually win the Oscar:

-He's more respected than Gere as an actor. After all, he won the Tony and the Laurence Olivier Award
-His role, even as a musical, is really dramatic and showy.
-At difference of Gere, he's the real lead actor of the play.
-Many people say the AMPAS have bias against actors in musicals, but that's not neccesary truth. When an actor are the lead and have the "showy" performance in a musical, they like it enough -Rex Harrison, Yul Brynner, Topol and recently Johnny Depp-. The big difference, in the last years, most of the musicals are female driven -Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson- and the male lead roles are relegated, but with "Sweeney Todd", if Warner Bros. didn't screw in the campaign, Johnny Depp could be a real contender for the prize in 2007.

Yes, maybe I sound as a Jackman's fan, but with a lineup including two Academy Awards Winners -Washington, Day-Lewis-, a character actor in a light drama -John Hawkes-, an "anthitesis" of HW -Joaquin Phoenix-, Jackman sounds right as an Oscar winner.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: I disagree with you in this prediction:

-In 76 years of these categories -Supporting Actor/Actress- there's always a newbie as a contender and even with a surprise. John Goodman, Ewan McGregor, Irrfan Khan, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit and anyone from ZDT -Most pundits said Joel Edgerton- could be our newbie(s)
-For Lincoln, according to many test screeners and the trailers, it seems Tommy Lee Jones and not David Strathairn will be the contender. Even some of them say, Jones is better than DDL. With the excellent year he had, he could easily took this spot

Even if Crowe had the second big role, there's my "suspiction" from the featurettes, where didn't show him singing and have less scenes. Or they have a surprise, or Crowe will be a dissapointment, not middle point. If that's true, maybe one of the other guys take the place -Cohen, Redmaybe, Tveit-

My top ten:

01. Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
02. Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
03. Alan Arkin - Argo
04. Leonardo DiCaprio - Django Unchained
05. Ewan McGregor - The Impossible
06. Russell Crowe - Les Misérables
07. Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook
08. Eddie Redmayne - Les Misérables
09. Joel Edgerton - Zero Dark Thirty
10. Christopher Walken - Seven Psychopats

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

I've yet to post my Golden Globe picks, but I agree with Edwin about McConaughey. I mean, the HFPA nominated Tom Cruise for Tropic Thunder and Viggo Mortensen for A Dangerous Method. Plus Magic Mike is probably in for two other Globe nods as well.

McConaughey probably gets his big (awards) break next year with The Dallas Buyer's Club

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Stark

BTW: While I think McConaughey only got a Golden Globe nomination for Magic Mike, this year's turn could actually help him the next year for his role in "The Dallas Buyer's Club" -Playing a AIDS victim, real life character and deglam-

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

leon, I don't think you chose the best examples there... Kinsey and Sunrise at Campobello only received one nomination each in major categories. The point is that Nat is predicting the film across the board except for Hopkins. Only SiL is comparable from what you listed, and well, there's a difference between Hopkins and Joseph Fiennes, no?

Hud did get a nomination for its lead actor and so doesn't fit at all.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRax

Just FYI: Kris Tapley and Anne Thompson recently noted that on the last Gurus of Gold survey, both of the posters from Entertainment Weekly-- Karger and whoever (Breznican?)-- both rated Tommy Lee Jones highly. Tapley and Thompson took this to mean that Lincoln has been screened for EW and that TLJ is the supporting MVP from the film.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Rax, I agree about the bad examples. Even regarding Shakespeare in Love, there's a big difference between a fictionalized (comedic) account of a man who died 400 years ago and a dramatic account of a man who is exceedingly famous in the movie industry.

I'd agree- if the film gets in, Hopkins gets in.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Leon, you thought Johnny Depp actually could have won for 'Sweeney Todd'? Really? Not knocking Johnny, who is an excellent actor, but his talk-singing in SW was not going to get him the Oscar!

Bradley Cooper is very very good in 'Silver Lingings Playbook', excellent in fact. But he's not outstanding, and Lawrence essentially steals the show and spotlight from him. Given the baityness of Lead Actor this year and the tough competition, I don't think he'll make it in as a nominee.

Robert De Niro may also be sacrificed to the whims and vagaries of the Oscar gods. He's also excellent in his role, but again, anything can happen. And if the late in game players truly perform and open well and big, I can see him falling off.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlinking Cursor

perhaps mcconaughey will gather some momentum from the critics groups who have a tendency to lump a bunch of performances together for a prize, plus his inevitable golden globe nomination

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

"Bradley Cooper, Oscar nominee" sounds as likely as "Jonah Hill, Osc-" oh, wait. :/

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

One might call him overdue if he didn't have that early writing Oscar (Good Will Hunting)

It was a blunder of a win, but, he's earned his keep as a movie star that can act.

I don't think we'll have a lineup with 5 returning nominees -2011 Best Actress was clear of that

The rules are different for women. Men can be rewarded with repeat nominations and wins. Women have a window due to sexism. Of course Streep is unaffected.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Like Nat, I'm really not banking on a lot of love for Promised Land. I know it's probably unfair to judge on the trailer, but it was just so uninspired, and felt like it was a mishmash of talking points from previous, better films. And enough with the washed-out, depressing cinematography to represent the Midwest. It's been done.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Nat: I know this might seem unlikely, but what do you think the odds are on either of the John Cusack roles? I'd place The Frozen Ground as the most likely bet, even if the film's a bit small for them. John Cusack's lack of nominations is, personally, much more shocking than Ewan's lack of nominations. Ewan has 4 (Trainspotting, MR, Ghost Writer and Beginners) works that it could at least be argued deserved nom attention, compared to Cusack's 11 (Stand By Me, Eight Men Out, Say Anything..., The Grifters, Money for Nothing, Bullets over Broadway, Grosse Pointe Blank, The Thin Red Line, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity and Max) Main difference: Ewan McGregor had a huge gap (NINE YEARS!) between his second and third plausible bids, causing audiences to naturally forget to scream for his nomination. John Cusack, meanwhile, was in the conversation, on average, every year and a half for SIXTEEN YEARS.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Blinking Cursor - Actually, yes. Even with the terrible marketing by WB, Sweeney Todd got many nominations by the guild support and the film got excellent response by critics - 81 in Metacritic. While I understand his vocal development wasn't exactly a spot on. He only need the "momentum".

4rtful - Maybe it's true for women, but my argument it was to make clear they willl be -at least- a newbie in the lead actor category. For the 84 years of Academy Awards, we only have six lineups made by returning nominees, ironically, four of them are actresses. Since 1980, there's still a newbie in the male category. The last time in the female category was in 1994.

October 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Todd is a Paramount Picture in the United States people.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Really?, Wow, so now I understand everything why the terrible campaign of Sweeney Todd and I was surprised because WB is clever with these type of campaigns...

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

I dunno, I am feeling bullish about SLP. I saw it last week and haven't seen most of what else is to come, but I could see them totally flipping for it. I actually walked out of the screening room thinking, Well, that's next year's Best Picture winner. Obviously it's way too early to really tell, but it's got major Spark, if you know what I mean - and it's very, very accessible without being stupid. Of course, I also really liked it, so maybe this is just wishful thinking.

I think they've all got great chances to get in, even Cooper (I was actually most taken by him, I think largely because the fact that he was so good was surprising to me, whereas I pretty much expect great things from Lawrence as a matter of course at this point), and especially DeNiro. Basically I think it corresponds very closely to Little Miss Sunshine in terms of its position in the race (down to the big dance at the end!), but it's serious and topical - the climax is not funny, it's emotional and romantic. Which is good for Oscar, I think.

I've seen Seven Psychopaths and there is no conceivable way it's getting anything, even though Walken is very funny in it (I'd say that Rockwell's the MVP, easy, but that's just me... he definitely has the best part). It's way too weird and violent and not nearly as good, on the whole, as In Bruges - more pulp, less pathos. And they didn't even go for that, so... (Though I will remain grateful to the Globes for rewarding Farrell. It's stuff like that that really validates their existence.)

Of course I knew that Fassbender had never been nominated but his stature in my head is so huge that seeing it written out kind of side-swiped me. He also has the convenient skill of winding up in movies I love (Hunger, Shame, Fish Tank, Jane Eyre...), so his filmography seems so Significant to me, you know? Obviously they'll get to him at some point, but it does seem a little silly.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

It's obvious to me that PSH is a lead character and should be nominated as a lead performance by a male actor.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

I really like the Best Actor lineup, and i want to see everyone of those movies. I'd swap out Denzel Washington for Jean Louis Trintignant in the first 5 though. It seems like many people loved Amour, and keep on loving it steadfastly, so that it probably has enough of a contingent to get that nomination as well.

Best Supporting Actor is fun because of it's fluidity. And I agree, that once we see the movie we see who the MVP is. I'm really curious about Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, because I like so many of the actors in those pictures.

I'd like to suggest Bruce Willis as a long shot Supporting actor. He's been in two very well reviewed movies this year, Looper and Moonrise Kingdom, and has been very good in both.

And I think Robert DeNiro needs to prove to us a whole lot more that he's back to being an actor. If he's consistent for another few years, then he'll be back. Until then I'd rather pay attention to someone like Christopher Walken in his age group, who never seemed to stop loving acting.

The two movies I've seen of Tom Hooper's both seem to hinge on a very successful interplay between two lead actors, so I'd think that Russell Crowe, acting with Hugh Jackman, will turn in a memorable and distinctive performance worthy of a nomination.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I agree with Nat that Hopkins will have a difficult time taking up a spot among the 5 nominess. Same as Denzel Washington, he's made a lot of crappy movies after his peak years. And he could end up being a bit over the top. If his performance is not measured he won't get in.
He'll have to show the subtlety that Philip Seymour Hoffman exhibited when he played the (charicaturesque) Truman Capote.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I love the Denzel doubters. He doesn't have to please you. It's a cakewalk 6th nomination. Hoffman will accept being a semicolon double winner like Streep and Nicholson.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Just an fyi that some dude named Snuggle4 over on Gold Derby has predicted that Les Miz is going to sweep, taking best picture...etc. Apparently this poster won last year's Oscar predicition race and is someone working in the industry and has access to early screenings and other insightful info.

Hmm...maybe Crowe kills it after all? I expect great things from Jackmand and Hathaway (it's a given due to their vocal training and theatre background), but Crowe would be a real surprise for me. I've seen him sing in a youtube video with his band, and quite frankly I wasn't impressed. His vocals were weak and rough and wasn't really remarkable in anyway.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlinking Cursor

How do we know that McConaughey isn't gaining traction? Isn't it too early to know this? I still think he's getting nominated, but we all know my crystal ball is cloudier than yours.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Echo chamber wishful thinking on the part of male movie bloggers and reviewers. Magic Mike is something Academy members will turn off early or outright not watch. See Brokeback Mountain from the geezer set.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

3 lead musical actors have won - yul brynner, rex harrison, and...of all people - James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy!

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

I can only wish that Logan Lerman's work in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" gets noticed. That's my favorite performance so far. Anyway. I think that Daniel Day Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix are the surest bets. Other than those two, it is still a very open race.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Papa

Well, he probably won't win for those reasons. But just for the sake of argument, I don't know how much it matters that people watch the movie for the performance to get nominated. The scale of career reinvention will impress a lot of actors, and he's worked with, befriended, and made a lot of money for a lot of people. This will clearly be the role to stand in for a year's worth of great reviews, and all the more so if it pulls down a Globe nod and/or at least one of the critics' prizes. Performances get nominated every year from movies I'm not convinced all that many AMPAS members watched. And a lot of the perfs getting ranked higher by the "Gurus," etc., are for work no one has seen in movies that, in some cases, haven't been finished.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Leon ,

What does HW stand for in anthesis of HW -


October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterme

I feel like I'm the only person excited for Promised Land...and part of me really wants to see John Krasinski get a supporting nomination. If anyone can score a "Jonah Hill nomination," I'm hoping it can be him.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Nick, I'm in love with Mcconaughey, especially for his "performance" in Magic Mike, but I refuse to buy into the reality of a career nomination until it happens.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Hollywood anthitesis - Phoenix

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Well - Bradley Cooper won the Hollywood Award for Best Actor... Does it means something for his possibilities?

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon
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