For the first time in its history, an acting category in the Academy Awards is made up entirely of previous winners. Therefore, somebody is going home with a second (or, in one case, third) Oscar. It’s perhaps the closest race among the four acting categories.
Christoph Waltz, who plays the loquacious bounty hunter King Schultz in Django Unchained. He has won the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards. He won only three years ago for Inglourious Basterds. Some see him as a favorite, given the precursors, and he certainly wouldn’t be a shocking win.
But I’m still thinking that Tommy Lee Jones, as abolitionist Senator Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln will go home with the gold. His win came 19 years ago (for The Fugitive), and he seems like the kind of veteran actor who voters wouldn’t mind giving a second Oscar to. If Lincoln were more of a favorite to win a ton of Oscars, he might be more of a sure thing.
It also wouldn’t be a stretch for Robert De Niro to win a third Oscar. He has won previously in the Best Supporting category (for The Godfather, Part II) and Best Actor (Raging Bull). But he hasn’t been nominated in over 20 years. His career has been notably dominated by comedies and disposable crime thrillers, but in Silver Linings Playbook he plays a different kind of role–closer to his stuff in the Meet the Parents films, but much more complex. He could surprise here.
The longer shots include Alan Arkin, as the producer who helps the CIA agent in Argo, a role that supplies most of the comic relief. Arkin, had he not won a few years ago for Little Miss Sunshine, might be the favorite, given that many producers probably see themselves in the role. But since he has won, I don’t think the part has the juice of the others.
Probably the longest shot in Philip Seymour Hoffman as the cult leader in The Master. It’s great work, but not the kind of thing that would seem to endear itself to voters. The Master was loved by the actor’s branch, the largest division in the Academy, but nowhere else. I can’t see a scenario where he wins.
Will win: Tommy Lee Jones
Could win: Christoph Waltz
Should win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should have been nominated: Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises