Oh how I love this time of year. When anything is possible...
There's no easy way to break down what might come to pass in 2014's Best Actor race. Numerous Oscar winners like Russell Crowe, Tommy Lee Jones, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, Christoph Waltz could be in play if they or their films deliver. Actors who've been nominated but have yet to win like Robert Downey Jr, Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, and Ralph Fiennes could also be campaigned for gold.
What's more exciting about 2014 is the plethora of men who've never been honored from comebacks like Michael Keaton (in a possibly plum fusion or role and star in Birdman) to a handful who feel like they're at just the right career moment for the Academy to say "Join the club!", either because they're in demand right about now or because they've been doing fine work for a long time without walking the red carpet much.
In this latter category several of them are playing real life roles which is often a leg up with Oscar... unless everyone is playing a real life role in which case, that advantage is cut off at the knees, don'cha think? Consider these seven never nominated players: Tobey Maguire as chess prodigy Bobby Fischer; Eddie Redmayne as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in Theory of Everything; Benedict Cumberbatch as gay codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game; Timothy Spall as the eccentric painter Mr Turner; Steve Carell as wealthy schizo benefactor John du Pont in Foxcatcher; Jack O'Connell as soldier/Olympian Louis Zamperini in Unbroken; and Chadwick Boseman as singer James Brown in Get On Up.
And that's just scratching the surface...
Which of these men are you most looking forward to seeing in their new roles? And if you controlled the tier rankings, who would you place up top as Most Likely To Be Nominated at this ridiculously early juncture? Sound off.