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One Of These 16 Men Will (Almost Definitely) Win Best Actor

09/16/2013 02:28 pm ET | Updated Nov 16, 2013
Paramount/TWC/Fox Searchlight/Roadside Attactions

Welcome to For Your Consideration, HuffPost Entertainment's breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and March 2, 2014, executive arts and entertainment editor Michael Hogan and entertainment editor Christopher Rosen will chat about awards season, and discuss which films will make the most noise at the 86th annual Academy Awards.

Hogan: Hey Chris, you're the one who suggested devoting this week's FYC column to the bloated ranks of Best Actor contenders for next year's Oscars. Counting them up, we have no fewer than 16 possible nominees. So instead of our usual back-and-forth, I thought it might be fun to lay down racetrack odds on each actors' chances of making it to the Final Five. Let the games begin?

  • 16 Michael Fassbender, "The Counselor"
    Fox
  • Odds of a nod: 30-1 Fassbender is assured of an Oscar nomination this year, it's just going to be for "12 Years A Slave." -- CR
  • 15 Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Fifth Estate"
    DreamWorks
  • Odds of a nod: 19-1 Cumberbatch is going to get here one of these years ... just not this year. -- CR
  • 14 Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
    Sony Pictures Classics
  • Odds of a nod: 13-1 Michael Scott, Oscar nominee? Stranger things have probably happened -- this is an Academy that nominated Robert Downey Jr. for his blackface "Tropic Thunder" performance just five years ago -- but this would rank up near the top. Carell's "Foxcatcher" role, of course, is anything but comic: He plays schizophrenic murderer John du Pont in Bennett Miller's late-season contender, and has to be taken seriously in the Best Actor competition if only because the last two lead actors Miller directed (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote" and Brad Pitt in "Moneyball") were nominated in the category. (Hoffman won.) The problem is probably Carell himself: He's a wonderful performer, but it usually takes more than one serious role for the Academy to notice when comics go straight. Bill Murray, after all, didn't get nominated for "Rushmore." -- CR
  • 13 Joaquin Phoenix, "Her"
    Warner Bros.
  • Odds of a nod: 8-1 Calling the Oscars "bullshit" didn't prevent Joaquin from scoring a nomination last year for "The Master," so maybe he's forgiven. And even though his chances of winning over the Academy as a guy who basically falls in love with Siri can't be too high, director Spike Jonze has a proven track record of guiding actors to gold. ("Adaptation" earned nods for Meryl Streep and Nic Cage, and a win for Chris Cooper.) -- MH
  • 12 Christian Bale, "American Hustle" / "Out Of The Furnace"
    Sony
  • Odds of a nod: 8-1. Two years after claiming the Best Supporting belt for "The Fighter," Bale is flexing his chameleon muscles again for director David O. Russell in "American Hustle" -- and judging from the teaser trailer, it's a ballsy performance indeed. But what's that in the Dark Knight's utility belt? Why, it's a backup performance as a Rust Belt vigilante in "Out of the Furnace" from Scott Cooper, otherwise known as the guy who got Jeff Bridges his overdue Oscar with "Crazy Heart." Bale may be a quirky guy, but he always gives 120 percent to a role. Don't count him out. -- MH
  • 11 Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale Station"
    TWC
  • Odds of a nod: 7-1 For a month or two there, Jordan had the field to himself, thanks to the July 12 release date of Sundance breakout "Fruitvale Station." Now that the big hitters are finally getting their swings, his soulful portrayal of Oscar Grant, a likeable weed dealer from Oakland who was shot and killed for no good reason whatsoever by some out-of-control BART cops, risks getting lost in the shuffle. -- MH
  • 10 Oscar Isaac, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
    CBS Films
  • Odds of a nod: 7-1 How deep is Best Actor? A normally no-doubt contender like Oscar Isaac, playing the lead role in a movie by the Coen brothers, might not even sniff the final five. Best case scenario: Isaac could be this year's Joaquin Phoenix (assuming Phoenix doesn't take that role himself). -- CR
  • 9 Hugh Jackman, "Prisoners"
    Warner Bros.
  • Odds of a nod: 6-1 Turns out you will like Wolverine when he's angry. Playing a deer-hunting, survival-prepping Pennsylvania dad who goes mental when his daughter disappears near a Winnebago belonging to Paul Dano, Jackman seethes, rages, shouts, smashes and generally spews his displaced rage at whatever or whoever is at hand. (Dano and a porcelain sink are two of his most notable victims.) Good stuff, but voters may feel he had his fun thanks to last year's "Les Miz" nomination. -- MH
  • 8 Idris Elba, "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom"
    TWC
  • Odds of a nod: 5-1 Who wouldn't join a revolution led by Stringer Bell? Elba, the British actor beloved for his roles in "The Wire" and "Luther," reportedly gives a moving, historically accurate performance in this dutiful biopic of Nelson Mandela. But although past performances in this vein have pleased the Academy, neither Denzel (nominated for "Malcolm X") nor Ben Kingsley (a winner for "Gandhi") had to face competition this stiff. -- MH
  • 7 Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
    Paramount
  • Odds of a nod: 5-1 If "The Wolf of Wall Street" is Scorsese doing "Goodfellas" mixed with "The Departed," then it might not bear fruit for Leo (even if it's the bessssssst). Scorsese Best Actor nods usually come from things like "Raging Bull," "The Color of Money" and "The Aviator," movies that have a central figure and focus. (If anything, "Wolf" co-star Jonah Hill could have a better shot than DiCaprio, playing the Joe Pesci to his Robert De Niro.) Still, let's give Leo benefit of the doubt for now, perhaps because he's due for some more Academy recognition after last year's "Django" snub. -- CR
  • 6 Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
    Paramount
  • Odds of a nod: 4-1 Consider Dern a budget Robert Redford: he's the other veteran actor in contention this year with a late-career shot at some long-deserved Academy love. Dern's work already has a ton of fans -- his daughter, Laura Dern, is dutifully pounding pavement -- but whether that's enough to break through in this category is unclear. Whatever happens, Dern is on the record as saying he won't go the supporting actor route, an option some awards bloggers feel he should embrace. -- CR
  • 5 Forest Whitaker, "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
    TWC
  • Odds of a nod: 3-1 In the wake of "12 Years A Slave," it has become cool to throw shade at "The Butler." Mistake. Oprah Winfrey is still in charge over at Best Supporting Actress, while Whitaker should be able to crack the top-five for Best Actor. Not only does he give a subtle, internalized performance as the film's title character, but Whitaker is also a past winner. That alone could put him ahead of a young upstart like Jordan or Isaac. -- CR
  • 4 Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
    Focus
  • Odds of a nod: 2-1 All right, all right, all right. We've been building toward a McConaughey nomination for the better part of two years, and "Dallas Buyers Club" is his best chance at hitting the mark. McConaughey is very good in the film and he lost almost 50 pounds to inhabit the role. That the kind of a dedication to craft many other actors have ridden to Oscar night. Pencil him in. -- CR
  • 3 Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips"
    Sony
  • Odds of a nod: 2-1 Tonally, "Captain Phillips" falls somewhere between "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," but Hanks brings beaucoup gravitas -- and serious emotional intensity -- to his portrayal of a merchant captain captured by Somali pirates. So don't be surprised if the 57-year-old superstar pulls down his SIXTH career Best Actor nomination. But wait, there's more: an Oscar whisperer tells us Hanks is even more bullish about his role in Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks," raising the possibility that he could make his first ever appearance in the Best Supporting Actor category as well. -- MH
  • 2 Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years A Slave"
    Fox Searchlight
  • Odds of a nod: 1-2 If Robert Redford weren't Robert Redford, Ejiofor might be considered the frontrunner right now. He gives a shattering performance as Solomon Northup, a free black man from the North who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. The journey is what makes Ejiofor a contender: we watch him descend from middle-class comfort to abject horror and humiliation, wondering all the while how we would feel in his shoes. -- MH
  • 1 Robert Redford, "All Is Lost"
    Roadside Attractions
  • Odds of a nod: 1-5 Here's a tip, kids: Don't bet against The Natural. After a six-year hiatus, Redford returned in 2013 with two films -- one of them this virtually dialogue-free "tour de force" (per Deadline.com Oscarologist Pete Hammond) about an old guy lost at sea when his yacht crashes into a garbage barge. Don't laugh: when Oscar voters see a 77-year-old man alone in a luxury vehicle, you better believe they see themselves. -- MH