Who are the Best Actor Oscar front-runners?

162942__hoffman_lLast year’s five nominees for a Best Actor Oscar ”included a record four men who were recognized for playing real people. That tally could be matched again this year,” according to an early Oscar handicapping story by Entertainment Weekly’s Dave Karger and Missy Schwartz, who note that Capote‘s Philip Seymour Hoffman (left) and Walk the Line‘s Joaquin Phoenix are the closest things to locks in the category.

Karger and Schwartz list 16 additional actors who have a fighting chance for a nomination, including Jarhead‘s Jake Gyllenhaal, Breakfast on Pluto‘s Cillian Murphy, and Hustle & Flow‘s Terrence Howard, who are also the subjects of a Movie City News feature about actors on the brink of receiving the kind of breakthrough Oscar love enjoyed last year by multiple nominee Jamie Foxx.

Have you got any early favorites to score a surprise nomination? Wait a sec… hands off the keyboards! Before you weigh in, check out the Independent Spirit Award nominees for Best Male Lead: Jeff Daniels for The Squid and the Whale; Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain; David Strathairn for Good Night, and Good Luck; and the aforementioned duo of Hoffman and Howard.

With that said, let the rampant speculation (and hateration) begin!

addCredit(“Capote: Sony Pictures Classics”)

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  • Derek Leafgreen

    Philip Seymour Hoffman should win, but I also think that Phoenix has an equally good chance. I believe that the Best Actor award is usually determined by an actor’s ability to make members of the audience accept the character and not think of it as an actor playing a character. Hoffman embodies Truman Capote better than Phoenix embodies Johnny Cash, but Phoenix has to have more than a good chance if Jamie Foxx could win last year without even singing Ray Charles’ songs by himself. I’ll be happy if either one of them wins, but I think that Hoffman has been the significant standout. Any time you need to manipulate your voice, attitude, and motions to fully realize a character you deserve special consideration. Then again, Phoenix does that too. Let the battle begin!

  • Connie

    Terrence Howard for Hustle & Flow + Ron Howard for Cindarella Man = Year of the Howard!

  • Roland

    If Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Phoenix are considered frontrunners for a nomination, Mr. Heath Ledger is right alongside with them. His portrayal of sexually conflicted cowboy Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain” has been drawing rave reviews from Venice to Telluride. Aside from accepting actors as characters, the Academy also likes to reward gutsy career moves. And given the current political climate regarding gays, Mr. Ledger’s performance doesn’t get any riskier. Good luck, Heath! Hope you strike Oscar gold!

  • Bob

    Yea, I’d say Hoffman and Phoenix are locks, but I would add Heath Ledger to that list as well. I’ve seen some amazing reviews for him in Brokeback Mountain. I’d add David Strathairn for Good Night, and Good Luck and Terrance Howard for Hustle and Flow to round out the 5. All are great, but I think there will be a split this year–and I think Ledger will win it. Hollywood love those career risk performances, that thats the biggest of the bunch. It will be a tight vote, so any of the 5 could win.

  • TorontoTom

    Phillip Streep Hoffman may have peaked too early. Momentim is with Phoenix right now. Couple of weeks from now, Ledger will take over. Looks like a real toss-up this year – and they’re all deserving. NY Critics will go with Viggo Mortgenson and suddenly he’ll be in the mix (although I don’t think he belongs)Hope Terrence Howard gets some support – could get a supporting nod for Crash.

  • Chris

    Please keep in mind that Spielberg has Munich in the works, and if things come together at the end of this year, we could see yet another breakout performance and nomination for Eric Bana. Despite appearing in some disappointing popcorn flicks in the past, I feel that Bana has what it takes to score a nod, and if anything can highlight this belief of mine for the Academy, it’s a Spielberg film.
    Also keep in mind it’s still November. We could have another Million Dollar Baby come out of nowhere.

  • KBJr.

    I’m actually surprised to see Terrence Howard’s name mentioned so much in this category. I thought for sure he’d be side-stepped like so many other talented black actors in America, good for him. He gave a stellar performance, but it doesn’t trump ‘Copote’. Phoenix may have portrayed ‘The Man in Black’ great, but Jamie Foxx and ‘Ray’ will overshadow. David Strathairn will likely get a nod, but won’t win because the character he portrayed was TOO one-demensional. Heath is a dark horse, haven’t seen ‘Brokeback’ yet, but we’ll see.

  • Laura

    Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are definitely locks, and I think the Oscar will come down to a battle between these two – who are both very deserving, though I personally would give the edge to Hoffman.
    As for other nominees? Many already mentioned by EW are definitely worthy, but how about Matthew Macfadyen’s wonderfully layered and heartfelt performance in Pride and Prejudice? Right now Keira is getting all the attention from that movie – and I do think she deserves an Oscar nomination because she was excellent. But don’t forget Matthew! Their chemistry together was fantastic, and it wouldn’t have been so if BOTH actors had not been excellent. Seriously, if Matthew were more famous, I bet you anything there’d be Oscar talk about him as well.

  • dee

    It appears that this is Hoffman’s year, but I agree that Heath is the dark horse (Although Four Feathers wasn’t a great movie, he gave an outstanding performance. Also, had his role in Monster’s Ball been bigger, he may have been nominated there too. He is definitely the dark horse). As someone correctly notes, it is about peaking and short attention spans. This could spell trouble for Mr. Hoffman despite a knockout performance. He will need help from the press.

  • Chad Newman

    While this year truly has featured some spectacular acting for the men’s race (while it’s been rather weak for the women), I feel that Philip Seymour Hoffman will walk away with the Oscar this year. His performance is haunting, and his characterization impeccable. His fellow nominees, I feel, will be Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man (depending on how well the studio can remind people of this great movie), Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line (though I hesitate to make the comparison, his Cash is a much better hero than Foxx’s Ray Charles – wearing the glasses was what won the Oscar for Foxx, in my humble opinion – the weakest scene in the movie showed that without the glasses Foxx was unbelievable as the blind musician), Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain, and David Straithern for Good Night, and Good Luck.
    If there are any variances, they could probably be Terrence Howard for Hustle and Flow and Jake Gyllenhaal for Jarhead. I haven’t seen Johnny Depp in The Libertine, so I can’t comment. Press has been quiet, so who knows?
    But I could be totally wrong.

  • Miles

    I thought Phillip would get it, then I thought it’s a toss up between him and Joaquin. But last night I saw a special preview of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and nothing speaks more than giving an AMAZING, HEARTBREAKING, EARTH SHATTERING PERFORMANCE like Heath Ledger’s.
    The oscar campaigns are done in my book. Everyone else should gracefully bow out of consideration. I haven’t seen a performance like this in years.

  • BoxOfficeGoddess

    Philip Seymour Hoffman is a respected character actor who has turned in a lot of memorable performances over the years but has yet to receive any accolades. The Academy loves to give out “package deal” awards, rewarding not only a great performance of that year but as a “mea culpa” for not recognizing the actor’s previous body of work. A good example is Denzel Washington winning his Leading Actor Oscar for “Training Day” instead of for “Malcolm X” or “The Hurricane.” Plus, the Academy likes to nominate actors in biographical roles. Nomination is a lock.
    Joaquim Phoenix is another respected actor who has been nominated previously in the Supporting Category. He’s in another biography and he had to learn a new skill for his role (guitar playing and singing). The Academy likes it when actors go “method.” Nomination is a lock, but the Academy might feel that he’s still a little young and has a lot of great performances left in him so it might be too early for a win.
    Heath Legder is young and he has a spotty acting record (“The Order” anyone?). However, because of the subject matter, this movie has been on the rader for some time and from the early reviews it looks like Ang Lee pulled it off. There has been a lot of praise for the entire cast, so to stand out from a talented ensemble is a remarkable feat. Plus, the Academy loves “break through” performances from unlikely candidates. A Nomination is highly likely.
    Terrence Howard has been all over the place this year with strong turns in a variety of movies including “Hustle and Flow”, “Crash”, and “Get Rich or Die Trying” and one other movie. However, except for “Crash,” none have really lit up the box office. He’s often the best thing in a bad movie, which doesn’t help him much. Plus, “Hustle and Flow” is a hard movie for the Academy to get behind–the like to give Oscars to prostitutes, not pimps. A nomination in the Lead Actor Category is a long shot, but I expect him to get a nod in the Supporting Category. He might also get a Golden Globe nod for best lead in a “Musical or Comedy” for “Hustle and Flow” but Phoenix will win that.
    Jeff Daniels may get a nomination based on shear popularity with the Academy voting block. He’s been nominated before for the “The Contender” and he was overlooked last year for “The Door in the Floor.” This has also been a rough year for independent films. Other than “Crash” none have really “broken through” and gone from the art house to the multiplex. Daniels has a solid acting record and the Academy likes to see a familiar name in its nominees. If Daniels is nominated, his nomination is his award.

  • chip

    ahhhhh…..Jeff Bridges was in the Contender and Door in the floor. Way to write a prententious eight paragraph essay and completely discredit yourself at the end. haha

  • Delon

    VIGGO MORTENSEN IN A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

  • JAN

    WALK THE LINE—— BEST PICTURE ,ACTOR, ACTRESS

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