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April Foolish Predictions: Best Actor 

Every year on the 1st of April we begin consulting our well used crystal ball. It's like "the Oscars, again? Don't you wanna know winning lottery numbers or something?" It's foolish to predict the Oscars before practically any of the contenders have screened but foolish can be fun.

This year the contest might be between two men playing beloved US presidents, Bill Murray as FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson and Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, and even if it isn't that angle will get media play. Streep's win a month ago reminded us that Oscar has always loved political performances (if not overtly political films) and they literally can't go one year without having one of the four acting winners playing a real life character. (Benjamin Walker is also playing Abraham Lincoln this year but he's playing him as a vampire hunter so he doesn't figure into the chart.) 

Ryan Gosling has a few leading roles again this year but after the past few years it's clear that Oscar just isn't that into him. So we look to people they love nearly without fail like Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master. It's possible that he'll overplay the role of a charismatic cult leader but that might actually help with Oscar. They love Clint Eastwood more as a director than an actor but one last chance to honor him for The Trouble With the Curve, a father/daughter road trip drama might be too much to pass up.

At this point I'm most curious about Hugh Jackman's chances for Les Misérables -- I'm guessing they're very good but I'm also guessing that that opinion won't be shared by all -and whether John Hawkes can fend off dozens of upcoming contenders and keep the heat from his Sundance success in The Surrogate as a man in an iron lung. 

Numerous leading men are coming but only five of them can win Oscar love. Other possibly interesting lead performances are on the way from Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Oscar Isaac, and of course Jamie Foxx as Django Unchained.

Who will it be? Here's my new guesswork.

How would you shift it?
Whose work are you most curious to see? 

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Reader Comments (37)

It's nice to see these again! I think you might be onto something with Oscar Isaac. And your top five right now are probably WAY too much in terms of baitiness (biopics, politics, disability), so some of that will fall off...

And I think it's wise to keep Affleck out of the inner circle for now. He's bound to hit big with Oscar in another movie or two, but Best Actor might be the one nut he won't crack.

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

(Also, nitpick: Brad's 13 Monkeys nom was in Supporting.)

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

I'm saving your predictions this year because I remember thinking back last year trying to remember and I couldn't. I want to be able to look back and either laugh at who was in the running at one point or be amazed that it's very similar to what it turned out to be.

I think DDL is in, and I really do think Hugh Jackman will get in. I think John Hawkes has a really strong shot.

I'd love to see Brad get in again. And I think it'll be interesting to see if Jamie Foxx gets traction for Django...Uma got some GG nods and I think a BAFTA nod for Kill Bill but never got in, and Pam Grier couldn't get in with GG and SAG nods...maybe it'll go a Pulp Fiction route?

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Hmm people I think you're missing in the charts (not saying they're likely to be nominated but they should be in contention):

Sean Penn, GANSTER SQUAD (he's the lead)
Paul Dano, HE LOVES ME (from 'Little Miss Sunshine' directors)
Joseph Gordon Levitt, LOOPER
Matthew McConaughey, MUD (from 'Take Shelter' director)
Garrett Hedlund/Sam Riley, ON THE ROAD
Michael Fassbender, PROMETHEUS (why not at this stage? I remember you went with SigWeavie back in 2009)
Matthew Goode, STOKER
Steve Carell, FRANK OR FRANCIS (Charlie Kaufman wrote and is directing this)
Tom Hanks, CAPTAIN PHILIPS (Paul Greengrass directing)
Robert Pattinson, COSMOPOLIS (I know it sounds like a joke but.. why not? Hollywood likes him, after all he keeps getting employed)
Russell Crowe, BROKEN CITY

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Hey Nathaniel! Not trying to be a know-it-all but Terence Stamp was in fact nominated (albeit in supporting) back in 1962 for 'Billy Bud' :)

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

As for my predictions... I say Hoffman, Day-Lewis and Jackman are in. I'll leave two spots for Toronto/Sundance hits (one of them possibly going to John Hawkes, yes).

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

p.s. Don't forget Winona Ryder for 'The Stare' when you're writing up the Actress contenders!

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

I'm not terribly optimistic about Les Mis.

I think we should all keep our eyes on Never Fade Away. It seems like the kind of movie people wouldn't see coming and then BLAM! Although, from what I understand of the movie, Gandolfini is not the lead, is he? Isn't it about a group of teenage guys?

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

I just cannot see Lincoln or Les Mis delivering

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Another option to consider is Suraj Sharma playing Pi in Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Seems like a meaty role if he can deliver.

As for Leo... well Gatsby seems like a supporting role to me. The main character really is Nick, so maybe Tobey Maguire might actually get some notice.

I think I'm expecting more than you are from Jamie Foxx at this point, but as you've pointed out this is ridiculously early :)

Loved seeing this. Looking forward to the other categories.

April 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Not to be unnecessarily nitpicky, but I believe Cogan's Trade is now called Killing Them Softly. It's one of the films I'm very much looking forward to. Brad Pitt was superb in his last collaboration with Andrew Dominik, so hopefully they'll strike the right note again.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

How about post-win Christopher Plummer in 'Barrymore'? He may get in the mix. I would love Bill Murray to win, will help make up for the LIT loss. Hoping Les Miserables will be amazing.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChrisD

I love your predictions!

For actress, I hope to see Marion Cotillard for Lawlife, it seemes to be a very baity role on paper!

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercole

You have my exact line-up Nathaniel. I also believe these five will make it. Actress will be a nailbiter. I think you should consider Helen Mirren in The Door. I've seen the movie and she is nothing short of amazing. Really tragic character, no make-up, deglam role, dying scenes etc. Szabó has already worked wonders for Annette why not Helen? :)

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdinasztie

I love Bill Murray and I am so eager to see him play FDR in Hyde Park on the Hudson. I hope he gets nominated, but who knows?

Leo and Brad Pitt are fairly overdue, but the Oscars have a fairly dismal record when it comes to recognizing America's handsome iconic actors for acting (see Newman, Beatty, Redford, even Tom Cruise before his career went downhill). As much as they seem to like him, I think even George Clooney may have trouble winning a Best Actor trophy at this point.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

At this point, the actress category seems to have more movies that I actually want to see. For the actors, I'm a bit skeptical about some of them. To me, it seems like some past winners like P.S. Hoffman and Foxx have a mortgage on their Oscar rather than ownership of it. That they will have to be paying for some years to prove that they deserved to be rewarded instead of others. Which is not to say that they aren't good actors, just somehow unsatisfactory winners.

The Academy seems to remember gracious winners fondly, and be miffed when someone doesn't make an effort to be properly appreciative. I think DiCaprio didn't do himself any favors by not showing up for the latest Titanic showing. It reminds everyone that he looked ungracious and ungrateful before and hasn't appeared to have changed much. And appearances count. Why waste your prize on someone who can't properly say thank you for a career boost?

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Does Jean Dujardin have a new movie? Get on that Weinstein! I need to see Eyebrows on the red carpet again especially if no one wants to actually nominated Ryan Gosling who would heat up the red carpet tenfold with his presence. Sigh.

More seriously, I think only Day-Lewis is locked for being well-respected and the role. Winning will be very, very tough, but a nomination is almost assured even if the movie isn't that great. I could be eating crow in 288 days, but for now that's what I think. I mean look at what happened with DiCaprio and J. Edgar.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Day-Lewis will have a tough road to win a third Oscar. Not likely.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermed

Robert Redford, The Company You Keep (No Way.)
Sean Penn, The Gangster Squad (If he's really the lead, why, then, are they parading Ryan and Emma)
Tom Hardy, Lawless (probably co-lead, and the actor more likely to generate awards heat. Shia's in this and the Redford film (and we know that's NOT going to generate heat), while Hardy could also be drawing some heat for Bane.)
Paul Dano, Ruby Sparks (NO. This film and performance might be good, might even be very good, but magical realism is probably going a harder sell to the Academy then sci-fi or fantasy. Being Flynn would sound much more likely if he's really up for a lead acting nom.)
JGL, Looper (This could be a big surprise. He's been bubbling under for years and I wouldn't be surprised if it could manage just this nomination.)
Matthew McConaughey, Mud (Might be 2013. Though if The Paperboy gets released this year, he might be competing with John Cusack in supporting. If only one can make it, I hope for the horrendously overdue Cusack.)
Hedlund/Riley, On the Road (Oh, The Beats. Even if this is GOOD, I'd expect the Academy to not touch it.)
Gosling, Only God Forgives (If JGL doesn't pull a "Lead Actor is our only nom" for Looper, this is the other possibility. (Other noms will happen if he gets heat for the other two.)
Fassbender, Prometheus (I'm thinking this is a Ridley Scott Alien style ensemble with no real "Leads")
Matthew Goode, Stoker (Is Hollywood really interested in Park Chan-Wook and this actor enough?)
Ben Affleck, Untitled Malick (Um, it's a Malick. If critics weren't generally interested enough to generate enough heat for Brad Pitt's performance last year, they just aren't interested enough to draw enough toward ANY performance in a Malick)
James McAvoy, Welcome to the Punch (Two things: 1. British crime thrillers don't really get heat. (It's hard enough for the American ones.) 2. If Mark Strong does the Nordic accent, he's going to get all the acting heat.)
Steve Carell, Frank or Francis (That's next year)
Joaquin Phoenix, Jonze/Kaufman Project (Also next year)
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips (Might be next year and is Hanks even in a good acting groove right now?)
Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis (If the film wows enough, he MIGHT get a coattails Lead Actor nom)
Russell Crowe, Broken City (That's next year and it's directed by...Bwahahaha. The Hughes Brothers. NO.)

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

You are underestimating John Hawkes, his role is more baity than an american president, is the kind of characters that win Oscars while never an actor has won an Oscar playing a president, and in the case of Lincoln, and FDR the famous actors that played both in the past weren't nominated (Fonda and Bellamy).

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Hey, four out of my five picks match yours! I swapped in Oscar Isaac for Bill Murray, only because I can't really see Murray as FDR, but I'm certainly keeping an open mind.

By the way, "Killing Them Softly" is such a lame title. Like a schlocky, straight-to-DVD Val Kilmer thriller. "Cogan's Trade" was so much better and more distinctive.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Haven't posted my predictions yet, but I'm matching you 5/5 for Best Actor, though I'm betting on Jackman to win.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Stark

Hoping for a Jackman nomination and a third win for His Majesty Day Lewis

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Just so you're not missing out on any in actress - don't forget Cruz for Twice Born, Wallis for Beasts, Winstead for Smashed... And I think you covered all the others.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

This is the first time I've heard about Bill Murray playing FDR? That's pretty huge. Why aren't people talking about that more? Was this commom knowledge? Poor guy should have already won for "Lost in Translation." I think that he could be extremely competitive with that, though my money is on Daniel Day-Lewis to win for "Lincoln." That's some bait to end all bait. I don't care that Spielberg films never win their actors Oscars or that winning the third is so rare. He's the guy to buck the trend, and this subject matter is uber-bait. I think a spot will pretty much be reserved for Clint if this is truly his swan song. Hope he sticks to his promise. Or is this just for leaving acting and not directing? Philip Seymour Hoffman for sure in "The Master," and hopefully Paul Thomas Anderson makes a serious bid for best director. And #5? I want to say Jamie Foxx for the Tarantino film (and to validate his Oscar win), but I think the odds are in Hugh Jackman's favor (har, har) for "Les Miz." That's a ridiculously stacked final five. Love to see who soars and falters in this category. Would love to find room for John Hawkes somewhere, and Brad Pitt too for that matter. I have a bad feeling about Luhrmann's 3D "Gatsby" (WTF?), and Leo will probably suffer for it. And for still being too pretty for Oscar. (Didn't stop Dujardin though, but he had other factors in his corner.)

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBillBill

Maybe we need to check this fact:

In 84 years, AMPAS only nominated six actors who played American presidents:

-Raymond Massey - Abraham Lincoln (1940)
-Alexander Knox - Woodrow Wilson (1944)
-James Whitmore - Harry S. Truman (1975)
-Anthony Hopkins - Richard Nixon (1995)
-Anthony Hopkins - John Quincy Adams (1997) - Only Best Supporting Actor
-Frank Langhella - Richard Nixon (2008)

So I don't think Day-Lewis and especially Murray are sure things than many people think. My predictions:

1. John Hawkes - The Surrogate - With luck and strong campaign he could win
2. Hugh Jackman - Les Misérables - Even if the film dissapoints, the film could gain a couple nominations in the acting category. Jean Valjean is a really baity character
3. Terrence Stamp - Song for Marion - With the Weinstein he could gain the sentimental vote and veteran spot
4. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis - With Rudin and recognition as a hard working actor he could make it
5. Brad Pitt - Kill them softly - My wildcard pick.

Alt: Matthew McConaughey - Mud / The Paperboy
Surprise: Michael Peña - Chavez (The Biopic of Cesar Chavez directed by Diego Luna)

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Unless DDL and "Lincoln" completely fail, I'm keeping him in my predictions for the nomination and win.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenny

Ryan T., actually the Weinstein have two french films released this year: Untouchables (Starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy). Right now is breaking the records made by Amélie 10 years ago and Les Infideles (Starring Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lelouche) the posters were object of controversy in France but it became a box office hit. The subject of the film -Male infidelity- is controversial for the American audience.

Maybe next year with "A Hot Wild Summer" with Vincent Cassel.

P.D.: If Canet, Hazanavicius or another director make the remake of Pepe LeMoko, I would love to see Jean Dujardin and Marion Cotillard in the leading roles

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

1.john hawkes:surrogate
2.daniel day lewis:lincoln
3.ryan gosling:only god forgives
4.oscar issac:inside llewyn davis
5.guy pierce:untitled drake doremus project

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterloken

Are you kidding me? Ddl winning a third oscar for lincoln, the answer is a BIG NO!, john hawkes will win this year for the surrogate!, his role has maximum baitiness in it plus ddl has already won 2 remember that!, if you all taken granted the greatest meryl streep to win after 30 long years then let ddl wait for 40 years to win his third if he is still alive lol

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlucy

I didn't realize at first that that picture in the post was a collage. I thought it was from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, where Lincoln meets FDR for, I don't know, vampire-hunting advice.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.P.

I think they'd give it to Murray over DDL, and Murray over Hawkes. Yes while they are both one time nominees I think Murrays status overpowers Hawkes relativley newcomer status

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

J.P. -- i love it. someone make that movie, too.

lucy -- men play by different rules but i agree that he's not going to win.

leon -- interesting statistic but it's still Daniel Day Lewis. He doesn't work often and actors worship him.

adri --I like what you're saying about "mortgage" on the Oscar but i don't think anyone but me isn't happy that PSH has one or that his career doesn't back it up.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

lol murray won't even be nominated.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterloken

Did everyone forget Denzel Washington for FLIGHT?

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkim

yes nat, i think the academy will go someone who hasn't won yet, someone who is respected and well established in the industry, i have a feeling it would be murray, but hawkes is my bet this year if not both of them, either pitt or phoenix and the rest who doesn't have a gold yet, anyone i would be happy, ddl had two already and let's give others a chance, this is their only chance and ddl could be back next year :)

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlucy

Because Hugh Jackman was remarkable as host of the Oscars ( much better than Billy Crystal ) , I feel the Academy will feel the need to reward him. Plus, he has a strong reputation for being very professional and well-liked ( a male Sandra Bullock ) .

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpenny
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