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First Round Oscar Predix: Leading Actor

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...


The Chart!
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. 

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Reader Comments (44)

First round, so of course anything goes. Just surprised to see Joaquin Phoenix and Ralph Fiennes didn't crack the top ten. Let the new awards season begin!!!

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJS

I love reading these. But I can't take any of it seriously this early. Its like buying your "growing like a weed" son a suit in May for him to wear on Christmas and hope it will fit. Everything can go wrong with only the slightest chance of it going right.

But please don't stop.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Noms for Molina & Lithgow would be a nice surprise....

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I wonder if Ellar Coltrane might be a contender for Boyhood - hard to say since nothing quite like his film has been done before. They might just reward Linklater but if he does great work in the film, I could see them honoring him with a nomination.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Fassbender for Macbeth?

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDean

Incredible that Alfred Molina has never been recognized but it shouldn't be. There's a long list of other worthies that have likewise been ignored, and yet Amy Adams has six nominations and Paltrow an Oscar, madness.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Joel, I was agreeing with you on Molina but then you slammed Amy Adams' career (five nominations) and that invalidated anything else you said.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I would add Fassbender for Macbeth, because I suspect the movie will be released in the US late in the year. He should certainly be "welcomed to the club" for a lot of fine work that hasn't been recognized.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachele

@Rachele: What are you talking about? He was just nominated last year!

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Would LOVE to see Michael Keaton have a comeback in this way... always loved him on screen.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

About the chart:
- The only one I feel semi=self confident (ha!) about is Carell
- Eddie Redmayne definitely DID win traction for Les Mis, he just didn't make the shortlist
- I would not say that Oscar is in love with Jonah Hill lol. Yes Moneyball was a surprise but WOWS was a very 'nominatable' performance in a big film. Anyways for him to gain any traction in for a Lead nomination, he'd have to be VERY good and at this point supporting roles have been where he has shined not lead. Plus I feel like the fact that he was nominated last year makes him more 'over-exposed' which hurts him (vs. having the career momentum you are talking about).

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwhatwhatinthe...

What I would give to see my favorite Batman finally nominated for an Oscar. I almost had Molina nominated for "Freda" before I remembered that he missed the final cut by *that* much. It would be wonderful to see a crop full of fresh blood.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Good list and fun to read... to me after reading your list of contenders it looks like Cumberbatch vs Phoenix with Carrell as spoiler. They have the history, role baityness and where they are in their career to be strong contenders.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Eurocheese I wasn't slamming her for ever being nominated, although I did get the number wrong its 5 not 6, she was worthy of the nomination at least twice but five is overkill and came at the cost of others who did deserving work and have never been acknowledged. The same would apply to Meryl Streep, a fine actress and deserving of many of her nominations but it's become ridiculous now where she has become an automatic rubber stamp nominee. It's not their fault but laziness on the academy's part.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Bill Murray?

This will be the only time Jones is in the top row.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Well, Timothy Spall should have been nominated for "Life Is Sweet" ages ago, so I'm unconditionally on his side. If Molina and Lithgow join him on our favorite morning of the year, I might die right in front of my TV.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Phoenix winning the oscar will be one of the best things to happen this year

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

If the nominations were tomorrow: Fiennes, Molina, Carrell, Shannon, O'Connell.

But they're not, so I'll just say I'm most looking forward to seeing the performances by Bale, Phoenix, Schoenarts, Keaton...and O'Connell.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Love this, it's really fun.

I hope Phoenix is nominated again and maybe even win. But he won't be for The Immigrant. That movie was not very good.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Which of these men are you most looking forward to seeing in their new roles?
Bernal, Schoenharts (both), Phoenix, O'Connell (both), Spall, Redmayne, Isaac (A Most Violent Year)

And if you controlled the tier rankings, who would you place up top as Most Likely To Be Nominated at this ridiculously early juncture?

Hmmm..... Cumberbatch, Carrell, Renner

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Nathaniel - I love how your taste always skews to the talented and worthy. You make it fun.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

If I were forced to put money down at this point, I would put it on Spall, Jones, O'Connell and Phoenix. And I expect to be wrong on at least two of those, probably three. But right now, I see too many potential pot holes standing in the way of all the others to feel secure backing any of them.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I love this big grid of potential. It gets me excited for the year. Can I admit among all you actressesxuals that I'm a closet...actorsexual? Right now Fiennes is at the top of my list. I know it's not the same thing, but for me he's like Blanchett was last year: sprinting out of the gate, ahead of the pack.

Excited too for Cooper, Phoenix, Cumberbatch, Redmayne, Lithgow/Molina, and Schoenaarts.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

So I guess James McAvoy's award-winning role in Filth is just a non-player this side of the pond? Ah well. Still excited to see it!

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I shouldn't be surprised at this point at the glacial pace of progress in Hollywood, and I say this with all due respect to the talent involved, but that is a distressingly, depressingly white grid of actors. Boseman and Bernal are it, and right now, they look like the longest of long shots.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterF

At the risk of starting a flame war, can we stop pretending that anyone who doesn't speak English as a first language is non-white? Bernal is White. And Mexican. And a member of AMPAS. He has just as much a shot at a nomination as anyone else. It all depends on the film. In this case, a film from a first time, untried, director known for comedy writing directing a serious film with a political theme.

Yes, it is a long shot. Duh.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Hispanic people despite their Caucasian features are not accepted politically or socially in America as white. This isn't even debatable because there's a documentary about Latinos losing their initial white classification in the United States. Having an ethic name and accent enable the easy disconnect from whiteness.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

i'll give it to 3rtful, here, Henry. it's a lost battle. Myself, being from Spain (Europe) and lookiing just like anyone from my neighbouring countries, France, Italy or even Ireland I got the same classification. it won't stop until the latino thing stops being something fashionable, something to which stars that can't say two sentences in Spanish join in merrily hoping to sell to wider audiences. Either that or until the whole world decides to stop accepting submissively the racial/ethnic classification imposed by the US. I wouldn't hold my breath.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Fiennes will not get a best actor nomination or win for Budapest; he will, however, get both next time he tackles a serious role because - ala Jeremy Irons for dead ringers/reversal of fortune.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermatt

Fassy (Macbeth) all the way:)

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Goodbye, Henry.

Gotta agree that this is an extremely white-washed selection, but what's new. I'm white and i'm sick of it. And to think it's even worse for actresses...

I think Carrell is the best bet at the moment, and I think Michael Fassbender should be somewhere on there. It might be wishful thinking or Marion Cotillard but I have good feelings about this Macbeth. Who knows.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I'd like to see RDJ winning an oscar. He is a great actor!

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNefeli

I would love to see Joel Kinnaman with his Robocop character, which was great and showed that both director and the actor worked on something deeper than just on the story of polia policeman became a machine. It is sad that many people underrate this new and great movie without paying attention to its coherent social critique.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B.

All I know about Foxcatcher is that they were doing test screenings last September/October promoting it as a December release and it didn't come out.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Will there be a - First Round Oscar Prefix: Leading Actress article ??? Waiting for that really...

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnnabelle

I'd have at least put Chris Pratt on the "big chart" for tracking, at least until we know what the critical reaction to Guardians of the Galaxy is. Why? Because, if Guardians gets an ecstatic critical reaction, that's two massive critical AND commercial hits playing two diametrically opposed characters. Remember this: Tom Cruise getting through for Jerry Maguire over, say, Liam Neeson for Michael Collins probably had at least something to do with Mission: Impossible's decent critical reception and high gross.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Wait, I thought Hispanic was actually a different classification than White? And different from Spanish too.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Volgavia: But Jerry Maguire was a Best Picture nominated box office hit and the only major studio film in contention, he probably would have got nominated with our without Mission: Impossible. And Chris Pratt is noway a big a star as Tom Cruise was in 1996. In 1996 he had in 8 years been one of the most dependable box office draws in the world. You can't really compare the situation.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJesper L

Well Arkaan, not everyone stops to think apparently. Try explaining that to an inmigration officer who reads a Spanish name in the passport, but sees no tick in the Hispanic box in the corresponding card you fill in the plane. And that's only for entering the States as a tourist.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Volvagia -- yeah, no. it had nothing to do with it. 'Jerry Maguire' was a major success on every front and well loved. Certainly more respected than a Mission: Impossible would ever be. And back then Tom Cruise had none of the baggage he has now and was expected to win an Oscar soon. and I appreciate your passion i really do but i'm not sure you understand how it works with actors and what they value in terms of what they consider constitutes "great acting". I'm not sure what you're even referring to with Pratt unless you mean 'The Lego movie' but he's not even in that. Nobody cares about voice work except for internet fans of movies. The Academy definitely doesn't care about it and actors only take it seriously in regards to how much money they can earn for it for very little work.

But regardless... the larger problem is that nothing like Guardians of the Galaxy gets taken seriously outside of the technical categories and even then it's not always taken seriously. Note that the Avengers, the biggest hit of all time, only scored one Oscar nomination: visual effects. And even then, The Guardians would have the same problem all "light" movies have EVEN IF it didn't have to worry about genre-biases. Unless you announce that you are serious, people don't take you seriously. (This is why The Dark Knight was taken seriously: it asked constantly to be taken seriously. Guardians, from everything I've heard, is just after fun and is asking you to laugh. Not a recipe for prizes, even if it's really good.)

May 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Annabella - of course, silly ;) Actresses are our passion.

May 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

He won't get nominated, but I like the random Chris Pratt mention in the comments. He has, after all, been in THREE Best Picture nominees for three years in a row now (Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, and Her).

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

What about a posthumous nod for Philip Seymour Hoffman in A MOST WANTED MAN? Right before he died, the reviews out of Sundance were mixed on the film overall but unanimous that Hoffman was excellent. These reactions came before his death, so not motivated by sentimentality. (His co-stars Rachel McAdams and Grigoriy Dobrygin appear to have pretty substantial roles as well.)

It's also a John Le Carre adaptation which worked out well for Rachel Weisz (Constant Gardener) and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHW

Nobody mentions Affleck? If the film takes off, why shouldn't he, especially with his history of the snub? I have a feeling that they might try to "make it up" to him.

My five: Carrell (the winner), Cumberbatch, Fiennes, Lithgow, and Affleck, with Bernal/Molina/Phoenix/Redmayne/O'Connell in the next tier.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

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