This year’s Best Actor trophy is up for grabs, but if you’re looking for a nomination, it helps if you’ve been in the vicinity of one before. Just look at the track records of our front-runners. American Beauty’s frazzled family man KEVIN SPACEY is vying for his first nomination as a lead actor, but took home a Best Supporting Actor trophy four years ago for The Usual Suspects. The Hurricane’s DENZEL WASHINGTON is hoping for his fourth Oscar nomination; he’s also a Best Supporting Actor winner (for 1989’s Glory), and his performance as Rubin Carter should win over even those Oscar voters who aren’t so sure about the script. Even this year’s favorite so-old-he’s-new discovery, The Straight Story’s RICHARD FARNSWORTH, is really more of a rediscovery; the stuntman-turned-actor was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actor for 1978’s Comes a Horseman.
That doesn’t mean a previous nomination is a must. RUSSELL CROWE, whose amazing, transformative performance as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider is the pack’s critical favorite, seems likely to get his first nomination this year (although we still say he deserved one for L.A. Confidential). Another actor looking for his first shot at the gold, Man on the Moon’s JIM CARREY, also won raves but, given the movie’s so-so reception, he’s something of a long shot (and we still say he should have been nominated for The Truman Show).
Other actors may have been nominated too often: TOM HANKS gives a credible, understated performance in The Green Mile, but after four Best Actor nominations and two awards, the been-there-done-that factor hurts him. Same goes for Titus’ ANTHONY HOPKINS, looking for his fifth nomination in eight years, and for eight-time nominee AL PACINO, who isn’t helped by having two lead performances, in The Insider and Any Given Sunday, to split the vote.
Which leaves us at four and counting. Who gets the underdog slot? Well, there’s The Limey’s TERENCE STAMP, whose performance as a revenge-bent dad could net him his first nomination in — get this — 37 years (he was last up for 1962’s Billy Budd). Also deserving of consideration are SEAN PENN, playing it light and easy in Sweet and Lowdown; RALPH FIENNES, on perfect melancholy pitch as always in The End of the Affair; and TOBEY MAGUIRE, earnest and touching in The Cider House Rules. But when all is said and done, we’re betting that the last slot goes to The Talented Mr. Ripley’s MATT DAMON, who daringly trashes his image as a golden boy, and as a result might just have a shot at winning one.
For Your Consideration
You know his face. You’ve seen it, usually briefly, in The Crying Game, in Little Voice, in Richard III, in everything from Brazil to Bullets Over Broadway. But never has JIM BROADBENT had a chance to go magisterially over the top for an entire movie…until Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy. As lyricist William S. Gilbert (as in Gilbert and Sullivan), Broadbent is grandiose and garrulous, proud and pitiable, larger than life but always true to it. How about a standing ovation — or better still, an Oscar nomination?