This year’s frontrunners for the Best Actor Oscar are a mixture of newcomers, revived careers, and old favorites, including two superstars starring in tales on the high seas. In alphabetical order:
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave. Ejiofor has been around for a while now (he was terrific over a decade ago in Dirty Pretty Things) but he’s certainly not a household name. But given the buzz this film and his performance has been getting, Jennifer Lawrence had better start to learn how to pronounce his name.
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips. Hanks has been out of the Oscar picture for well over a decade, since his last nomination for Cast Away. He’s back with a vengeance this year with a likely nomination for this film about modern-day piracy, as well as a possible twofer for his supporting role as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers’ Club. With such a bright future that seemed to be squandered on bad romantic comedies, McConaughey’s comeback will probably see his first nomination, as an AIDS patient. He also has a chance at a supporting nomination, for either Mud or The Wolf of Wall Street.*
Robert Redford, All Is Lost. Hanks is a kid compared to Redford, a matinee idol from a generation ago who is now an eminence grise. He is the only actor that appears in this film as a man lost at sea. Redford has won two Oscars, but not for acting. He won for directing Ordinary People and a honorary Oscar. In fact, he has only received one acting nomination, forty years ago for The Sting.
Forest Whitaker, The Butler. I’m not sure about this one, and I wasn’t impressed with the performance, but if the film gets traction Whitaker may get swept up along with it. This is one of those characters that thing happen to, rather than instigating them, and a lot of times they don’t get nominated.
Also conceivable: Christian Bale, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Leonard DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street*; Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station.
* The Wolf of Wall Street may move to 2014, as it will miss it’s November release, due to a 180-minute length. Time will tell as whether it be ready for a Christmas release.