Part 1 of 4
Though many Oscar writers do some sort of halfway-mark article in June or July of each year (here's mine) it would probably be smarter to do a halfway-mark article at August's end. It don't make no calendar sense but awards sense? That, my friends, it makes. You see, in awardage memes it all begins in the fall. Since statistics surprisingly support at least 2 acting nominees annually prior to the fall season, the struggle for any performers arriving prior to September is this: If you're in the hunt now, can you hold your place as the prestige offerings come galloping into theaters?
So here's a quick look at the 5 likeliest nominees (according to my idea of AMPAS tastes) in each category if the year ended on August 31st. We'll get to some other roundups in the next installments. What are the individual struggles of these Supporting Actor candidates going into the final four-month stretch of Oscar's long-distance race?
Kevin Costner The Upside of Anger
Matt Dillon Crash
Paul Giamatti Cinderella Man
Terrance Howard Crash
Jeffrey Wright Broken Flowers
I wanted to throw in Mickey Rourke for Sin City just to be in-your-face about this exercize. But even though his unrecognizable turn was perhaps the one non-visual talking point from that hit, Oscar will never be vacationing in that town. I also wanted to tip my hat to Paddy Considine who was terrific in My Summer of Love but I am the only person in the known universe who saw it so... moving on.
If you accept my premise that those five men listed are the leaders now... how will they hold up through fall and winter? Wright is the surest candidate to fade. Though he's a great actor (Belize in Angels in America anyone? Wow.) Broken Flowers' Oscar hopes are riding entirely on AMPAS recently acquired taste for Bill Murray's deadpan nuance and on the media angle of a Jim Jarmusch breakthrough (of sorts). Costner currently seems second-most-likely to drop. He's the earliest contender to arrive. But even though he's a winning actor in this one type of role (only that one -sorry Kev') he's played it (too?) many times before.
So that leaves us with the trifecta of the Crash boys and Oscars-Most-Egregiously-Snubbed wine lover. I don't think it's far fetched to say that all three of them could make a real play for a nomination. Surely not all three of them will choose too do so, considering the publicity and time demands. And not all three will survive the blows from the dozens of competitors who are yet to surface. But if I were the person responsible for "who-to-campaign-for?" decisions, I'd still consider investing pr dollars in these three.
Pros & Cons
Bad cop Matt Dillon has an enduring career (big +) charisma (+) and a lynchpin role in an acclaimed drama (+). He also has a semi-hateful character (slight -) and lots of internal competition (big -). So we move over to victim of his character's ill placed prejudice, Terrance Howard. He has a breakout year (big +) another acclaimed performance and film in Hustle & Flow (+) and the most sympathetic role in this acclaimed hit drama (big +). Paul Giamatti has pluses and minuses as well. He has real acclaim-momentum (huge +) an Oscar friendly role (+) and last year's most visible and surprising snub (big +). On the negative side he's got a film that people like a lot but don't really love (big - )...well, it's a big minus when you're talking about early releases. Early releases need to keep people talking. Long-lasting discussion requires: 1) ardent supporters/detractors 2) hot-button issues/controversies and/or 3) big hit status. Cinderella Man fails on all three of those Oscar mnemonic-helper counts.
Most Likely to Survive?
I actually think this is a tough call to make. The heart says a nod to Matt Dillon's unexpectedly lengthy career but the head says Paul Giamatti for Cinderella Man. It's that Sideways snub pushing him closer to his first Oscar nod.