As of today we are almost exactly 10 months away from the 8th Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, 2013. If the past couple of years are any indication, then we may be seeing several of this year’s Best Actor and Best Actress nominees by the end of the Summer. The Cannes Film Festival, which begins in two weeks, has launched Oscar campaigns for previous nominees like Jean Dujardin and Christoph Waltz. There are also a number of independent films that come out over the next two months, many of which are likely to maintain momentum throughout the year. However, most of the future Best Actor and Actress nominees will not be seen until the Fall.
The Best Actor race will be particularly interesting this year as it appears to be full of Oscar veterans and previous winners. Actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jamie Foxx, and Daniel Day-Lewis will attempt to repeat their recent victories while established faces like Hugh Jackman and Brad Pitt will hope to get their first trophy. Several newcomers are among the list of potential nominees, but my early favor lies with the vets. Let’s take a look at some of those names, shall we:
1) Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
The past two years have seen the winner of Best Picture, Director, and Actor all coming from the same film and since I’ve already chosen The Master as the early frontrunner, it only makes sense that I choose Hoffman as well. That trend is not the only reason it is fair to put Hoffman in this spot, however. Genius auteur Paul Thomas Anderson has given Adam Sandler, Mark Wahlberg, and Daniel Day-Lewis career defining performances and he already has a great working relationship with Hoffman. If The Master gets the love that I predict, Hoffman will be tough to beat.
2) Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
There is a dilemma when it comes to the Awards probability of Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in the upcoming biopic Lincoln. On one side you have the fact that the film is based on a true story and a character analysis of a real historical figure, which the Academy quite often votes for. There is also the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis is a remarkable actor known for fully inhabiting his roles. On the other side you have the fact that this is a Steven Spielberg movie, a filmmaker who has never directed an actor to an Oscar win in his illustrious career. I comment on some of Spielberg’s difficulty directing actors in my review of War Horse.
3) Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
There is a lot of hype surrounding Tom Hooper’s follow-up to his Best Picture winning film The King’s Speech. If Hooper and his cast live up to it, then the Awards will come showering down on this musical adaptation, but if not it will probably go down in flames. The thing that will help Jackman’s chances is the fact that he really can sing and finally gets a film to showcase his full range of musical ability. If Jackman is ever going to have a shot at a Best Actor award, this seems like the one for it.
4) Ben Affleck – Argo
Ben Affleck has always shown a lot more skill behind the camera than he has in front of it. The actor-director was impressive in his last feature film The Town and he will be directing himself once again for Argo, a period film about a CIA agent during the Iran-Contra affair. Affleck once again surrounds himself with a dynamic supporting cast, which may hurt his chances if they end up outshining him. However, Affleck’s acting has only been improving with age and this project could be his best yet.
5) Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers have a knack for working with actors and two of their last three films have seen acting nominations (Michael Stuhlbarg of A Serious Man deserved one). Oscar Isaac is an up and coming star who showed a lot of layers in Drive last year, where he played a character that was introduced as an antagonist, but had more depth than an easy label like that. If he can stand his own with Coen regulars like John Goodman, then he could be an Oscar nominee.
Other Potential Nominees:
6) Jamie Foxx – Django Unchained
7) Tom Hardy – Lawless
8) Tobey Maguire – The Great Gatsby
9) Bill Murray – Hyde Park on Hudson
10) Sam Riley – On the Road
It was more difficult to come up with a list of 20 possibilities for Best Actress than for Best Actor, largely because the list of potential nominees is so long. Typically there are more Best Actress nominees from films that are not nominated for Best Picture, which means I have to expand my horizons further to get an accurate list. This year the race is likely to be populated by a nice mixture of previous nominees and complete newcomers. Unlike the Best Actor race, I am not predicting any repeat winners, with the exception of Marion Cotillard who has a few opportunities to repeat this year. Let’s take a look at who will have their first shot at glory:
1) Viola Davis – Won’t Back Down
Viola Davis narrowly missed her first Best Actress win last year when Meryl Streep took home the big award. The Academy is likely going to be anxious to give Davis her first Oscar to make up for the snub (they do that a lot) and this film where she plays a mother trying to change the inner city school system could be the ticket. She will face some strong competition from her co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but if the film gets a lot of attention, Davis will likely emerge.
2) Helen Hunt – The Surrogate
On the surface, a film about a man in an iron lung trying to lose his virginity does not sound like the type of film the Academy will embrace with open arms, but it also sounds like a formula for a potential surprise hit. Hunt plays a professional sex surrogate who will help John Hawkes on his journey to manhood. Hunt is hit and miss for me, but this sounds like a magnificent opportunity.
3) Mia Wasikowska – Stoker
The list of people who consider themselves Mia Wasikowska fans is growing and will only get bigger once she appears in the first English language film of beloved director Chan-wook Park. In Stoker she plays a teenage girl mourning the death of her father who strikes up an unexpected relationship with an estranged uncle. Wasikowska is overdue for an Oscar nomination and this film seems like a perfect opportunity.
4) Marion Cotillard – Rust & Bone
Since her Oscar win for 2007’s La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard has established herself as one of the finest working actresses in any language. She returns to her native French for Jacques Audiard’s film Rust & Bone where she will play a dolphin trainer who lost her legs in a freak accident. Audiard commanded a powerhouse performance from newcomer Tahar Rahim for his previous film A Prophet and should be able to the same this time. It has the foreign language disadvantage, but Cotillard has overcome that before.
5) Carey Mulligan – The Great Gatsby
Carey Mulligan is unquestionably one of the finest actresses working today and she makes bold film choices that exhibit her talent. Daisy is a meaty role that an actress like Mulligan should definitely be able to take far. Baz Luhrman’s films are not always the best showcases of great acting, but the high profile of this film means it is one the Academy will be paying attention to.
Other Potential Nominees:
6) Keira Knightley – Anna Karenina
7) Laura Linney – Hyde Park on Hudson
8) Dakota Fanning – Effie
9) Julianne Moore – What Maisie Knew
10) Amanda Seyfried – Lovelace
Did I miss any? What do you think of next year’s acting races?
FUN FACT: This is the 2,000th post on Film Misery!