With only one significant awards show left before the Academy Awards (the BAFTA Awards , which take place Sunday, February 12th), awards season is coming to a head. In my continuing coverage of the Academy Awards , this week’s post focuses on the actors nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. So far this awards season, Supporting Actor has been dominated by the seemingly unbeatable Christopher Plummer, and Best Actor is shaping up to be a showdown between crowd favorite George Clooney and newcomer Jean Dujardin. It will be interesting to see who ends up taking home the Oscar!
Demián Bichir  in A Better Life : Nominated for his moving performance as a father struggling to support himself as a gardener in Los Angeles and provide a better life for his teenage son, Bichir is the clear underdog in this race. Despite a Screen Actors Guild nomination earlier this year, his Academy Award nomination was a shock. If Bichir wins, he will be the first Mexican actor to do so since Anthony Quinn in 1956.
George Clooney in The Descendants: A crowd (and Academy) favorite, Clooney is nominated for his role as a father struggling to reconnect with his daughters after his wife is severely injured in a boating accident. Although Clooney won a Golden Globe for his performance, he lost the SAG to Jean Dujardin. However, this is Clooney’s third Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and his raw, emotional performance could finally swing the Academy in his favor.
Jean Dujardin in The Artist: Nominated for his role as George Valentin, a silent film star struggling through the switch to talking pictures, this French actor is a newcomer in American theaters. Dujardin does an amazing job conveying charisma, depression and every emotion in between, and his masterful silent performance is the heart of The Artist. With wins at the Golden Globes and the SAGs, and a nomination at the BAFTAs, Dujardin seems a lock to win. But there are always a few surprises at the Academy Awards, and this could be one of them. (Update: Dujardin also took home the BAFTA on Sunday!)
Gary Oldman  in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Nominated for his portrayal of the iconic intelligence officer, George Smiley, this is Oldman’s first Academy Award nomination. His performance is nuanced and cerebral, but has, like the movie itself, largely been snubbed by American awards shows. Oldman probably won’t take home the Oscar this year, but it is wonderful to finally see such a brilliant actor recognized for his efforts.
Brad Pitt  in Moneyball : Nominated for his performance as the risk-taking general manager of the Oakland A’s, this is Pitt’s second Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. Although he does a fantastic job as the center of this movie, Pitt is unlikely to win in this year’s high-powered race. However, he has been honored for this performance with Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nominations.
Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh  in My Week with Marilyn: Nominated for his turn as Sir Laurence Olivier, Branagh plays his part to perfection. Branagh received Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nominations for his performance, but is an underdog in a category dominated by one nominee.
Jonah Hill  in Moneyball : After making his name in a string of comedies, 28-year-old Hill received his first Academy Award nomination for his first dramatic role. Hill probably won’t take home the Oscar for his performance as a baseball numbers wiz opposite Brad Pitt, but he has certainly made the (often difficult) transition from comedic to dramatic roles.
Nick Nolte  in Warrior : Nominated for his performance as Paddy Conlon, a recovering alcoholic trying to repair his relationship with his two estranged sons competing in an MMA tournament, this is Nolte’s third Oscar nomination. Last year, I blogged  about how much I had been looking forward to seeing Warrior. The movie didn’t disappoint, and Nolte’s performance blew me away. Nolte may not take home the Oscar, but I am thrilled to see him (and Warrior!) recognized.
Christopher Plummer  in Beginners : Nominated for his performance as Hal, a man who comes out to his son while dying of a terminal illness, Plummer is the man to beat. Although Plummer has been acting steadily since the 1950’s, this is only his second Academy Award nomination. (The first was a Supporting Actor nomination in 2009 for The Last Station .) (Update: Plummer also took home the BAFTA on Sunday!)
Max von Sydow  in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Swedish actor with a long history in film, von Sydow is nominated for his performance as the mute Renter helping Oskar on his hunt. Unfortunately for von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close met with a surprisingly mixed critical reception, hurting the film’s chance to take home any awards.
So far this year, I’ve only seen four of the movies represented in the Actor and Supporting Actor categories, but that doesn’t stop me from rooting for my favorites! Who would you like to see take home the Best Actor & Best Support Actor Oscars this year? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for a post about the actor and actress nominees!