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Oscar Contest - Category Highlight - Leading Actors

February 20th, 2009

With our annual Oscar Prediction contest under way, now is the best time to look at the nominees and try and figure out who the favorites are and which films should just feel honored to be nominated. Today we look at Best Female Actor in a Leading Role and Best Male Actor in a Leading Role.

(Note: All previous awards listed are only for acting, but they including supporting roles, lead roles, or even part of a cast.)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
Tomatometer Score: 87% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award, and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: None
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: One SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: This is a two-horse race, and Anne Hathaway is not one of those two horses. The film's reviews were great, but not at the more than 90% level usually associated with Oscar wins. It also had a good run, especially for a limited release, but not a great run, and you can't vote for a film you haven't seen. Finally, the competition is just too tough at the top.

Angelina Jolie for Changeling
Tomatometer Score: 61% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: None
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: One Oscar, four Golden Globes (including two for TV), one Independent Spirit Awards, and three SAG (including two for TV)
Actor's Previous Major Wins: One Oscar, three Golden Globes (including two for TV), and two SAG (including one for TV)
Notes: This film had Oscar buzz surrounding it since it was announced; however, its reviews just don't justify that buzz and there's almost no chance she will win.

Melissa Leo for Frozen River
Tomatometer Score: 87% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award, and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: None
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: None
Actor's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: It would be an amazing upset if Melissa Leo won. She is easily the lowest profile actor of the five who were nominated, while the film made the least at the box office. Granted, it is not a strong category this year, and upsets do happen, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Meryl Streep for Doubt
Tomatometer Score: 77% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe and two SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: SAG
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: 14 Oscars, 22 Golden Globes (including some for TV, and 9 SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins: Two Oscars, six Golden Globes (including one for TV), and one SAG (for TV)
Notes: No other actor has as many Oscar nominations as Meryl Streep, and she has two wins (for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie's Choice). However, her last win came in 1983, and in the past 25 years, she has earned 10 nominations without a win. I don't know if she's the favorite, but she can't be seen as a real underdog either.

Kate Winslet for The Reader
Tomatometer Score: 60% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe and two SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: Golden Globe and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: Five Oscars, six Golden Globes, nine SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins: One Golden Globe and one Independent Spirit Award
Notes: One the one hand, Kate Winslet is due. She's the youngest person to ever have six Oscar nominations, and if she doesn't win on Sunday, she will tie the record for most nominations for an actress without a win. (The current record-holder is Deborah Kerr.) She has also picked up a couple of awards for her performance in The Reader, but they were for best Supporting Actress and she's up for the Oscar for Best Leading Actress. Also, at just 60% Positive, it's hard to claim The Reader is an Oscar-worthy film. Giving Kate Winslet the Oscar for this film when she was passed over for much better roles might bee seen as fixing past mistakes rather than rewarding the performance she was nominated for. Besides, she's only 33; she will be nominated again, hopefully for a more deserving movie.

Conclusion: It's a two-horse race between Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet, and while conventional wisdom has Kate Winslet winning, I think Meryl Streep has a slight edge. Doubt is the better movie, it made more at the box office, and Meryl Streep is the highlight of a cast that earned four Oscar nominations.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Richard Jenkins for The Visitor
Tomatometer Score: 91% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award, and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: None
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: One Independent Spirit Award
Actor's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: The Best Lead Actor nomination I'm happiest about, because Richard Jenkins has been toiling as a character actor for a long, long time. That said, his chances of winning are nearly zero. (In fact, Nate Silver has it at 0.5%.)

Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon
Tomatometer Score: 92% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: None
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: One Golden Globe, one Independent Spirit Award, and one SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: Frank Langella has been acting a long time without get much in the way of Awards Season buzz, and this is arguably his best performance ever. That said, while there was buzz surrounding this film for a long time, it is unlikely that he will walk away with the win. The competition is just too strong.

Sean Penn for Milk
Tomatometer Score: 93% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award, and two SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: SAG
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: Four Oscars, four Golden Globes, and three Independent Spirit Awards, and four SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins: One Oscar, one Golden Globe, and two Independent Spirit Awards
Notes: Sean Penn is not the favorite to win this award, but nor can you really call him an underdog. This is an excellent movie and worthy of the accolades; however, Sean Penn recently won an Oscar, and that hurts his chances this time around. Also, the amount of buzz Mickey Rourke is generating is huge, perhaps too much to overcome.

Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Tomatometer Score: 71% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe and two SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: None
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: One Oscar, three Golden Globes, and one SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins: One Golden Globe
Notes: This film earned the most Oscar nominations this year, but strangely this actually hurts the film's chances in any of the major categories. Its reviews are not strong enough to be considered a truly Oscar-worthy film, and voters will think they can pass it over here, and vote for it in another category. That said, it is the biggest film on this list, and odds are more Oscar voters have seen this one than any of the other films, and that could help.

Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler
Tomatometer Score: 98% Positive
Actor's Previous Major Nominations for This Performance: Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award, and SAG
Actor's Previous Major Wins for This Performance: Golden Globe
Actor's Previous Major Nominations: One Independent Spirit Award
Actor's Previous Major Wins: None
Notes: This movie slid in under my radar for a long, long time, and I'm not alone. While a lot of people were talking about Frank Langella or Sean Penn, almost no one was talking about the Awards Season potential of Mickey Rourke. Then the reviews started to come in. The Wrestler earned some of the best reviews for the year, and this is clearly due to Rourke's performance, and now many have him as the favorite. He did split the previous awards with Sean Penn and the oddsmakers have him the frontrunner. But will Oscar voters really give the prize to a man playing a professional wrestler?

Conclusion: This is a race between Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn. The overall buzz suggests Mickey Rourke has this one wrapped up, but I wouldn't be so sure about that.

Prize Highlights With each category highlight, we will also take a look at the prizes we will be giving away for the Oscar Prediction contest, as well as some of the prizes we will have when our regular Box Office Prediction contests start back up after the Oscars.

Today we look at Repo! The Genetic Opera, the Rock Opera starring Anthony Head, Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, and others. The movie has serious cult movie potential, partially because it is too out there for mainstream appeal. The DVD is also well done with two audio commentary tracks and two featurettes. An excellent prize.

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Filed under: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Changeling, The Reader, Doubt, Milk, The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married, The Visitor, Frozen River, Repo! The Genetic Opera