Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Michael VS. Michael: the search for DiCaprio's 'runner-up' continues...

I’ve been thinking over my predictions quite extensively the past few days, and a certain dilemma keeps rearing its ugly (well, somewhat attractive actually) head.  The lead actor category is seemingly pretty well sewn up.  You’ve got four actors who are all but guaranteed a nomination.  Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Jean DuJardin are all going to lose to Leonardo DiCaprio come next year’s Oscar ceremony.  Here’s the thing; I can’t put my finger on that fifth spot.  I really want to say it’ll be Ryan Gosling, considering the fact that he’s had a great year, he’s a great actor and he was disgustingly snubbed last year; but his buzz is fading faster than I’d like it to.  I still think he’ll land on quite a few ballots, and his Globe nomination (and possible BFCA) is almost certain; but in the end I think that one of two people is going to snag that fifth spot from under him.

And no, I’m not thinking Gary Oldman any longer.

Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon both received RAVES for their performances this year; Fassbender in the sexually explicit ‘Shame’ and Shannon for that supernatural thriller ‘Take Shelter’.  They both are starring in vehicles that won’t garner much Oscar attention outside of acting and possible screenplay, but they are sure to cause a stir come critic’s awards. 

Fassbender has the momentum at the moment.  He just won a big price in Venice and his career has been on such an upswing lately.  He’s soaking it all in, delivering one great performance after another, and like Gosling, he’s had a tremendous year (four films, all of which gave note to his range and talent).  While I initially stated at the beginning of the year that I was most certain about Fassbender and Gosling nominations (Fassbender for ‘A Dangerous Method’ and Gosling for ‘The Ides of March’), I am now not so certain.  ‘Shame’ is an obvious NC-17 film that could play in a favorable or unfavorable light.  We all remember the hoopla surrounding the ‘Blue Valentine’ rating last year, which resulting in a solitary nomination for Michelle Williams.  Sure, the controversy kept her name in the equation, but who’s to say that an initial R-rating wouldn’t have secured Gosling, Screenplay and maybe even Picture nominations.

Shannon would be a returning nominee, who also happened to land a surprise nomination back in ’08.  I’ve had a very ‘Javier Bardem’ vibe about Shannon since early word on his performance came out so strong.  This is the type of performance that your peers rally behind to get nominated.  Remember last year when Bardem wasn’t nominated for anything yet everyone from Julia Roberts to some other random celebrity who had the privilege of working with Bardem was saying that his turn in ‘Biutiful’ was the best thing they had ever seen and then BAM, he was nominated.  I expect a similar scenario with Shannon.

And then, part of me wonders if their supporting ladies may factor into the equation.

Jessica Chastain and Carey Mulligan are certainly going to pick up some awards this year.  Chastain is going to be all over those breakthrough awards, considering that she’s in half the movies released this year (and I already have a hunch that the NBR is hers), and Carey Mulligan has a juicy role that has earned her raves and she’s like the ‘it girl’ of the moment, so expect her to add a few more trophies to her collection. 

With these girls, it’s a bit of a reversed situation. 

Chastain has had one hell of a year, and she’s in quite a few high profile films (‘The Help’, ‘The Tree of Life’) as well as buzzed projects like ‘Coriolanus’ and of course, ‘Take Shelter’.  Her name is all over the place and she’s going to be mentioned quite a few times this year.  Because of her hefty bag of films, she’s also bound to win a few (if not the majority) of Breakthrough awards this year, and sometimes that is enough to solidify a nomination.  Besides, I can’t help but get a ‘Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart’ vibe.  Shannon’s buzz may be so strong that Chastain gets roped in at the last minute. 

With Mulligan, I honestly don’t think she’ll need Fassbender to make it in.  She has respect already, thanks to her remarkable turns over the past few years.  She’s proven already that her nomination in ’09 was far from a fluke (she should have won) and she could very well be a big player this year.  A friend of mine noted that she’s going to be the critical darling this year, and I agree.  While Chastain may be racking up ‘Breakthrough’ awards, Mulligan may very well be stealing actual ‘Supporting Actress’ awards out of the hands of Davis and Winslet (whose category confusion could lead to a lack of support) and Redgrave (whose buzz is slowly fading).  Mulligan could actually prove to be a major contender in the end and her nomination may solidify itself halfway through the season.

Chastain may need Shannon for the nomination, but I don’t think Mulligan needs anybody.

In the end I’m torn.  I think one of these couples is going to make it, but I can’t put my finger on which.  Maybe both girls make it in and Shannon steals that final spot, or maybe Davis and Winslet both go lead and Fassbender and Mulligan become crowned this year’s golden couple.

Or maybe Daniel Craig comes out of hiding and commands that final Lead Actor spot!

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