Oscar Circuit – Newbies & Oldies: Male Edition

Oscar season is nearly in full swing.  The screeners and invitations have already started.  PR companies, studios, and other industry analysts are fighting hard for films and performances that they hope will resonate with critics’ awards and the Academy Awards.  When assessing the race in all categories there seems to be an equal amount of newcomers and veterans in various categories, all fighting for a spot in their respective lineups.

In the Directing category we have the usual suspects of respected veteran directors; Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and David Cronenberg.  Most of these men have won Oscars before and looking for reaffirmation that they’ve still got it.  You could easily place Terrence Malick in the same lineup for The Tree of Life, however, Malick seems to be on an island all alone at the moment.  His film seems to be so uniquely split between people who love it or hate it, it’s going to be interesting if he makes the cut and wins the Oscar.

George Clooney, David Fincher, Bennett Miller, Alexander Payne, Jason Reitman have been nominated for the Directing Oscar before.  They’re not necessarily newbies but their still swinging at the Oscar ball.  Can they hit a home run this year?  The freshman of this year’s race could lie with Michel Hazanvicius for The Artist, Steve McQueen for Shame, Tate Taylor for The Help, Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, and Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin (I know she isn’t a man but I couldn’t help but mention her now).  There’s probably a dozen or more names you can add but these five seem to be in the forefront of contenders this year thus far.

In the Lead Actor category, longtime Hollywood beloved actors like Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Antonio Banderas for The Skin I Live In are looking for their first dance with Oscar.  The former seems like the near sure-fire contender to be recognized.  Breakthrough performers are making a wave this season as well.  Jean Dujardin has had buzz for months for his work in The Artist and some are saying a win seems almost inevitable.  Michael Fassbender blew up the box office in X-Men: First Class and is building a serious amount of buzz in Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and McQueen’s Shame.  A critic’s darling on our hands?  Demian Bichir has his supporters a very good team behind him pushing his performance in A Better Life.  Tom Hardy has two performances hitting the circuit this season.  He already had his work in Warrior well received by critics and his work in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has some standout mentions.  If War Horse is the juggernaut everyone is expecting, Jeremy Irvine should come up in plenty of conversations.  Thomas Horn also seems like something extra special in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close but let’s be serious, Keisha Castle-Hughes was the last actor recognized in the Lead category and before that, I can’t even remember.  A supporting campaign might be in the cards.  Speaking of supporting:

Supporting Actor is the category to get the veterans recognized anytime and this year seems like a big lineup.  Christopher Plummer has been the frontrunner for weeks for his work in Beginners.  Some are saying it’s locked up for him.  He also has Barrymore looking to make a splash later in the year.  His road to Oscar is already an uphill climb due to the competition at hand.  Albert Brooks as the surprisingly vicious gangster in Drive is hitting campaign trail already.  Kenneth Branagh looks decent enough in My Week with Marilyn along with Jim Broadbent in The Iron Lady.  After Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close trailer hit the web, many, including myself, jumped on the possibility of Max Von Sydow being recognized.  Definitely premature and maybe not the smartest move for an Oscar predictor, Von Sydow standing alongside Christopher Plummer would make a great Supporting race.  Conversation still circles veterans like Nick Nolte in Warrior, Robert Forster in The Descendants, Niels Arestrup in War Horse, and Ben Kingsley in Hugo.  The new boys on the Oscar radar thus far are Jonah Hill in Moneyball, a performance critics and audiences were surprised by.  I suspect the Globes may jump up and down for him.  Ezra Miller has been buzzed about for months alongside co-star Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin and if he hits the circuit in a big way, watch out.  Benedict Cumberbatch has been an actor you’ve seen for years and realize how good he really is in his supporting work like Atonement and Creation.  A large amount of buzz has spiked for him recently for his work in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  If he continues to get those standout reviews, Cumberbatch could be a surprise entry no one really saw coming.  We’re still crossing our fingers for Armie Hammer opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Eastwood’s J. Edgar and Patton Oswalt has entered conversation for Jason Reitman’s Young Adult.

Official Oscar predictions will be updated this weekend with an in-depth look at the females in this year’s Oscar race.

Which veteran are you rooting for?  Which newbie are you pulling for?  Discuss here and discuss on the FORUM.