By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Oscars are upon us, and the slates of nominees on display on Sunday evening during the Academy Awards ceremony are the usual mix of familiar faces and first-timers.
So, given that we’re already on the record with regard to this year’s nominated actresses, let’s handicap the races for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor, which could end up rewarding two actors from the same film.
The Best Supporting Actor “competition” seems a foregone conclusion. But you never know…
Michael Fassbender, nominated for a first time for his sadistic slave owner in 12 Years a Slave, probably has the best chance of the also-rans, but it’s highly unlikely nonetheless.
Jonah Hill, nominated for a second time (Moneyball) for his greedy stockbroker in The Wolf of Wall Street, doubtless has modest expectations as well.
Bradley Cooper in American Hustle is undoubtedly gratified at being nominated two years in a row (Silver Linings Playbook), which is quite a Hollywood achievement, but knows this is as far as this train travels.
And Barkhad Abdi, whose driven Somali pirate in Captain Phillips earned him a nomination – and perhaps a career – in his first acting gig, is grateful for the shot.
But the Oscar will go to Jared Leto – and he would get my theoretical vote as well – in his first movie in six years for his transgender HIV-infected prostitute in Dallas Buyers Club.
The Best Actor category is not as clear-cut, although there is still a clear front-runner.
Christian Bale, a winner as Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter in 2010, has the longest of shots this time out for his adulterous con artist in American Hustle.
Bruce Dern may be the sentimental favorite for his deluded geezer in Nebraska, given that this is his first nomination since his Best Supporting Actor nod 35 years ago for Coming Home, but his re-discovery will have to do.
And Leonardo DiCaprio, so often taken for granted or overlooked at Oscar time, grabs a fourth nomination for his title character in The Wolf of Wall Street, but even money says he will not be delivering an acceptance speech.
Newcomer Chiwetel Ejiofor has a legitimate shot at pulling an upset and winning for this, his first nomination, as the Northern-born musician, Solomon Northup, the real-life protagonist in 12 Years a Slave. But that is less than a probability.
That’s because Matthew McConaughey, in the midst of an amazing persona reinvention that has seen him go from object of ridicule to respected and reliable thespian, will take home the prize for his real-life Dallas Buyers Club protagonist, Ron Woodruff, a homophobic rodeo rider who learns he has AIDS and struggles to get legal meds.
If I had a vote, it too would go to McConaughey over Ejiofor, but by the slimmest of margins.