The truth of the matter is that film is still such a male dominated medium that there are usually enough strong male leads in the Best Picture nominees to fill most of the Best Actor slots. Throw in one...maybe two...wild cards. To fill this final slot (or maybe slots) they might choose the star of a film that was praised mostly on the strength of his performance. They could alternately go with a living legend giving what might be their last great performance. And that, my friends, is how you build a Best Picture field.
1. J. Edgar - Leonardo DiCapprio (82) (0 wins, 3 nominations)
Considered by most to be long overdue for a win and snubbed for last year's brilliant work in Inception (and to a lesser extent, Shutter Island). Then again...starring in the latest Clint Eastwood picture didn't help fellow AMPAS darling Matt Damon last year.
2. The Descendants - George Clooney (63) (1 win, 3 nominations in acting categories)
Probable meaty dramatic turn from one of Oscar's favorite sons. Then again...His energies will already be stretched campaigning for multiple possible nods for...
3. The Ides of March - Ryan Gosling (52) (0 wins, 1 nomination)
Snubbed for last year's Blue Valentine, already drawing positive attention this year for Crazy, Stupid Love, and leading one of the season's most anticipated films. Then again...it is a political drama.
4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Gary Oldman (44) (NEVER NOMINATED!)
In all of Hollywood, maybe the actor most overdue for a nomination. Then again...is this the sort of film where the action will overshadow the acting?
5. A Dangerous Method - Michael Fassbender (42) (never nominated)
Rising star, fresh off of X-praise, in an iconic role. Then again...has he risen far enough, and noticeably enough?
6. The Artist - Jean Dujardin (36) (never nominated)
Almost universally praised performance that won Best Actor at Cannes. Then again...he is almost completely unknown in the U.S.
7. Moneyball - Brad Pitt (32) (0 wins, 2 nominations)
Top actor whose 2011 body of work began accumulating praise with The Tree of Life. Then again...the premise sounds soooooo dry.
8. We Bought a Zoo - Matt Damon (27) (0 wins, 2 nominations in acting categories)
Highly respected actor, highly anticipated film. Then again, he does already have an Oscar, albeit for screenplay.
9. Take Shelter - Michael Shannon (23) (0 wins, 1 nomination)
Powerhouse performance already highly praised on the festival circuit. Then again...this small indie production might fail to grab enough attention.
10. The Skin I Live In - Antonio Banderas (22) (never nominated)
Reunites muse and mentor, and Oscar loves to find ways to honor Almodovar when Spain fails to submit his films. Then again...it's a horror movie, not a strong genre in the acting categories.
Also with ten or more points: A Dangerous Method - Viggo Mortenson, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Tom Hanks, The Rum Diary - Johnny Depp
At this point last year, things looked like this:
1. Blue Valentine - Ryan Gosling
2. Get Low - Robert Duvall
3. The King's Speech - Colin Firth
4. Biutiful - Javier Bardem
5. The Fighter - Mark Wahlberg
So I had only two out of five correct. Jeff Bridges was closing in at seventh place, and James Franco was just starting to make waves in eleventh. There was no real buzz behind Jesse Eisenberg at all.
Duvall and Gosling's buzz peaked way too early and Wahlberg ended up overshadowed by his supporting cast. No one knew at this point how much of 127 Hours would rest solely on Franco's shoulders or how well he would handle it. No one yet foresaw how much of a phenomenon The Social Network would become, nor what Eisenberg was truly capable of. So...anything can still happen.
But what do I expect next?
Unless J. Edgar REALLY disappoints, DiCapprio should go ahead and just start campaigning for the win, and it could EASILY be his year unless someone comes along and just owns it. Competing with himself is probably the main factor that caused him to miss out on a nomination last year. Most of the men on this list seem like formidable contenders, although one or two of them are bound to disappoint. Oldman seems REALLY due for his (FIRST?!?!) nomination. Dujardin and Shannon both seem like stronger contenders than the numbers currently reflect. Beyond that...???
Because buzzing makes me salivate,