And here we go... the acting categories you've all been very impatiently waiting for in TFE's first wave of Oscar predictions for the year.
As faithful readers know I like to keep my crystal ball risky with the bouncing and hope it doesn't shatter. In the first wave of predictions "what if" scenarios and "wild cards" are espectially compelling in the Supporting races. I mean why not? So little is yet known about future important matters like Amount of Screen Time, Nature of the Ensemble Roles, Best in Show Scene Stealing and even Post-Production "we'll fix it in post" Switcheroos where a film is rethought to better spotlight its MVPs. This early on there's no point in making boring predictions in which Oscar favorites hog all the categories though sometimes they do -- witness last year's All Previous Winner boredom in this category. Which is why I'm taking a few big risks like imagining an implausible Tim Roth comeback in a Nicole Kidman vehicle or suspecting that stage actor Sean Mahon (so charming recently as an unexplored love interest in Higher Ground) will make the most of a key role in Philomena.
I'm betting on a field of non-winners and (Oscar) newbies. For now... That said sometimes you have to go "default" as I've done by predicting Javier Bardem. From a distance his new role as an Weirdly-Coiffed Embodiment of Evil for an Oscar-friendly Director (sound familiar) seems an awful lot like his roles in No Country For Old Men & Skyfall but considering that he almost got nominated for doing this again - in a Bond film no less ! -- I decided against pretending that his fellow actors don't just worship the ground on which he walks.
And what of the Ensembles and Potentials For Category Fraud?
The one I'm most curious about in terms of story structure and "best in show" business is Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it's based on a true bizarre story about a wealthy eccentric (played by Steve Carell) who was also a schizophrenic and the two Olympic wrestling brothers (Channing Tatum & Mark Ruffalo) who he became friends with which did not end well for any of them. It's a three-handed story. Channing Tatum gets top billing but the screenplay is based on that brother's unpublished? memoirs so he might be your narrator/audience proxy (a la Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby) which means that Tatum will be demoted to supporting even if he's the lead. My guess is Carell with the showiest part is lead and the other two are relegated to supporting despite very large roles. Now pedigree-wise a movie starring Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum who have 1 nomination and a lot of obstacles to Oscary respect between them (TV fame, light comedy history, hunkaliciousness) shouldn't scream "Oscar nominations for all!" but Bennett Miller is quality. He's only made two narrative features (Capote & Moneyball) but his favored milieu (true stories about famous or infamous men) is right in Oscar's wheelhouse and both of his previous pictures won a lead and a supporting acting nomination.
Since Hollywood is always very focused on testosterone heavy stories there are usually multiple options of acting glory for men in any given film. Take these examples: The Counselor is headlined by Michael Fassbender but my guess is the colorful supporting cast (led by Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem) will pull focus; I know nothing (yet) about the breakdown of characters in The Monuments Men but there are A LOT OF THEM so who is to say which Friend o' Clooneys (Damon, Goodman, Balaban, Murray?) was given the best role or the most camera attention?; Wolf of Wall Street is also a sausage fest but it seems more likely to be The Leo Show - Wall Street Edition than anything else; I've noticed quite a lot of "Benedict Cumberbatch for the Oscar!" mania after the August: Osage County trailer premiere and, sure, he does emote more in the context of the trailer than anyone besides Julia Roberts but that role isn't really that big or that great and the men (Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper) may find a hard time getting around the female driven narrative for any Oscar attention of their own in such a crowded film.
So take a look at the chart and tell me with your own crystal ball where you think mine is malfunctioning and which prophesies you also deem most likely to occur. (Up next: Best Actor)