With the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor Guild already pulling back the curtain on this year’s group of nominees, it will soon be time for the Academy of Arts & Sciences to do the same. This six part series will look at each of the main categories and break down the frontrunners and dark horses of this Oscar season.
Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”)
Firth is one of those actors that while you see everywhere, you never really see in the spotlight. He is also one of the most talented actors in the industry and this is predicted to be the role that pushes him to that next echelon with the public.
James Franco (“127 Hours”)
It is safe to say that no role has been more talked about than Franco’s portrayal of hiker Aaron Ralston, who after being trapped under a boulder for 127 hours amputated his own arm to escape. Franco was a contender long before he was named a co-host of this year’s ceremony and he will remain a contender for a long time to come.
Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”)
“The Social Network” was always supposed to be a movie that got people talking and generated Oscar buzz. Although the level of success it has had so far makes a nomination for Eisenberg seem like a sure thing, no matter how competitive the race should be this season.
Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”)
Wahlberg really is more of a frontrunner than a contender, but a late run by “The Social Network” gives Eisenberg a slight edge. Regardless Wahlberg is still going to be a force this year and it would be a real surprise not to see him make the cut.
Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”)
In 1970, John Wayne won his first and only Oscar for his role as Marshall Rooster Cogburn , now Jeff Bridges is looking for the same success. Although Bridges is looking for an even more impressive feat, as a win this year would make him only the third person to win back-to-back Best Actors Oscars.
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Shutter Island”/”Inception”)
The question with DiCaprio probably shouldn’t be if he’ll be nominated, but for which film? With amazing performances in both “Shutter Island” & “Inception,” DiCaprio was one of the most critically praised actors of 2010. While it’s possible he could get nominated for both, it isn’t likely. Ironically having an embarrassment of riches could also end up hurting him as Academy voters can sometime have a problem choosing between two roles, which in the past has resulted in some shocking surprises.
Kevin Spacey (“Casino Jack”)
When a two time Best Actor winner is closer to being considered a dark horse than a contender, you know it is a tight race. As disgraced Washington DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Spacey again shows off just how multi-talented he is as actor, but again this is a crowded year and he could just barely miss the cut.
The Dark Horses:
Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”)
Both Gosling and his “Blue Valentine” co-star Michelle Williams have legitimate chances to score a nomination, but while both have been tapped before, it was a with a much different field of contenders.
Aaron Eckhart (“Rabbit Hole”)
After “The Dark Knight,” Eckhart effectively put Hollywood on notice that he was going to be a contender, but this may not be his year. While some have called his role in “Rabbit Hole,” his best career performance, there are just too many other actors who could sneak into one of those nomination slots. Whether he makes the cut or not, this will not be the last time Eckhart will be considered a contender.
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Love & Other Drugs”)
It isn’t possible to include Anne Hathaway in the discussion for Best Actress and not include her “Love & Other Drugs” co-star in the Best Actor conversation. Although it is also very likely neither will make the short list, but Hathaway probably has the edge.
Ben Affleck (“The Town”)
Many nominees have said that is really an honor just to be nominated, but in Affleck’s case it may be that is really just an honor to be in the conversation. Affleck has had some rough box office bombs and to climb back into the mix with back to back directorial hits, he has shown a level of versatility that many forget he had. He may not be personally nominated, but it is very likely some aspect of his film will be, which should go a long way in re-establishing him as an industry force.