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by Peter Knegt
November 5, 2013 1:53 PM
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For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors That Deserve Oscar's Attention This Year

James Franco in "Spring Breakers"

Last week, this column took the first in a two-part break from Oscar-related dish to profile 10 deserving underdog actresses from this year's batch of films, including Adèle Exarchopoulos ("Blue is the Warmest Color"), Julie Delpy ("Before Midnight") and Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Enough Said"). This second part works in a similar vein, except this time it takes a look at the boys' club.

There's definitely a few good men from specialty films that are close to locked into both male acting categories this year, like Robert Redford ("All Is Lost"), Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave"), Bruce Dern ("Nebraska") and Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club") in the lead category, and Michael Fassbender ("12 Years") and Jared Leto ("Dallas") in supporting (check out an updated weekly prediction charts here). But there's still a little bit of wiggle room (particularly in supporting), perhaps the same sort that brought performances from small films like "A Better Life" (Demian Bichir) and "The Messenger" (Woody Harrelson) into the mix in recent years. So perhaps one or two of the following will indeed end up in the running.

Ben Foster in "Ain't The Bodies Saints"

Commentators should once again keep in mind that the list purposely does not include work that looks like a good bet for a nomination (such as the noted six men in the previous paragraph) and that it only includes films currently scheduled for release during the 2013 eligibility period, With that said, here are 10 underdog actors for your consideration:

Ben Foster, Ain't Them Bodies Saints

David Lowery's visually poetic outlaw romance "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" came out of Sundance earlier this year with glowing reviews and hopes that it could end up in this year's awards race. But when it came out this summer, it did so to little buzz and lackluster box office, making it overall an underdog at best as awards season gears up. But if there's any nomination its many fans should surely rally for -- other than Bradford Young's gorgeous cinematography, perhaps -- it's Ben Foster's performance as the police officer than takes Ruth (Rooney Mara) under his wing when her husband (Casey Affleck) is in jail. While Mara and Affleck are also excellent, Foster carves out -- with much less screen time -- a layered, affecting character that sticks with you long after the credits role. The 33 year old actor is also definitely due for some awards love, given his impressive body of work -- particularly "The Messenger" and "3:10 To Yuma" -- has largely gone unnoticed from the awards circuit.

"Kill Your Darlings"

Dane DeHaan, Kill Your Darlings
Ben Foster actually has a few films out this year, including John Krokidas's underrated beat generation take "Kill Your Darlings." But while Foster is reliably great as William S. Burroughs in the film (as are Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg and John Huston as Jack Kerouac), it's Dane DeHaan who steals the show as Lucien Carr. Pulling off a distinct mix of decadent, cool (in a few senses of the word), sexy and dangerous, you can't take your eyes off him. His work was deservedly honored with a Gotham Award nomination last week, and while it's unlikely the Academy will follow suit we'd certainly have no issue if they did. And judging from this performance, it seems likely they will one of these days.

James Franco, Spring Breakers
"Spring Breakers" distributor A24 has already started a clever For Your Consideration campaign for James Franco instantly iconic performance as Alien in Harmony Korine's film. But surely even they know it's a very long shot. His work here is far from up the Academy's alley, even if Franco himself has been previously nominated (and hosted the show itself, though we all know the legacy of that). But there's many a folk -- including this one -- that would have no problem suggesting Alien is Franco's finest creation. The ultimate multi-hyphenate Franco surely offered us a good dozen or two major projects in 2013, but Alien is the crown jewel. Under corn-rows and metal teeth, Franco is an absolute riot in a role that reminds us just how entertaining Franco can be (as did "This Is The End," for that matter, which deserves some consideration of its own). And Oscar nomination or not, it's gonna be Alien we remember 10 years down the line, not Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.


  • Joe H. | November 20, 2013 1:34 AMReply

    Everything about Spring Breakers should just be forgotten.

  • John McCartney | November 7, 2013 9:39 PMReply

    Anybody in Fruitvale Station is new and exciting

  • Jason | November 6, 2013 6:17 PMReply

    These choices all represent most acting not best acting. We shouldn't see how hard an actor is trying.

  • ECP | November 6, 2013 4:06 PMReply

    Sheridan and Stanfield definitely talents to watch, and glad to see them mentioned.
    But my high hopes are on Miles Teller for "The Spectacular Now." I thought he owned that role. Surprised, moved, and satisfied me in ways that recalled how I felt watching Joaquin Phoenix in "Two Lovers" and Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate."

  • Vikki | November 6, 2013 3:01 PMReply

    The Hunt will most certainly get a Best Foreign Film nomination and should be the winner in the category. It would be spectacular if Mads Mikkelsen gets a Best Actor nomination, he was brilliant in The Hunt. He is a world class actor and the US is just getting a taste of him now so I'll be curious to see how the Oscar voters react.

  • Phill | November 6, 2013 11:32 AMReply

    How can Mads Mikkelssen be an underdog in anything regarding acting, including the Oscars?
    On the other hand, Ethan Hawke (one of my favorite actors, mind you) should NOT get one.. At least not now, not for "Before midnight". There's not much brilliance in the "Before-trilogy", not because of the lack of capacity of the actors though, but simply because of the films. They're like that, deep and "philosophying" , yet light and simple, not requiring what some might call strenuous acting... BUT! The whole crew, led by Linklater of course, should get some life-achievement award, because that trilogy is ,in my opinion, the best thing movie industry ever produced..The story itself, the "9 -year-span", the chemistry between the two and the painfully realistic, yet still romantic third part...Linklater's magnum opus, a masterpiece.

  • Phill | November 6, 2013 11:33 AM

    *"Not much ACTING brilliance" was what I wanted to say..The movie(s) itself is(are) brilliant

  • Franco | November 5, 2013 9:27 PMReply

    James Franco should have been nominated for Pineapple Express, Milk and Howl.

    Also, should have won for 127 Hours. This role as Alien was epic and will be remembered for years to come as you said "And Oscar nomination or not, it's gonna be Alien we remember 10 years down the line, not Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.".

    Remember the Academy huge mistake with Al Pacino in Scarface and Gary Oldman in True Romance, well let's see, if they're stupid enough to go for three. Hopefully, not and Franco gets the nomination and win.

  • Charles Barclay | November 5, 2013 9:15 PMReply

    Keith Stanfield is incredible. He, and his song from Short Term 12, (and the rest of film too) deserve recognition. But he'll never get their attention. Being in an indie film is bad enough. But being black, too...well...Oscar ain't color-blind, I'm afraid.

  • Keith Stanfield | November 22, 2013 1:10 AM


  • Herb Stratford | November 5, 2013 7:47 PMReply

    I'd add Woody H. from OUt of the Furnace...he is amazing in the role.

  • DUDDI | November 5, 2013 6:01 PMReply

    IMO, the most deserving actor (on this list) to get a nod in this year's Oscar race is Mads Mikkelsen. His performance is simply "brilliant". But odds are against him, I think he will not get any major recognition from Hollywood, since he got very little push from the Weinstein, who released The Hunt, for the best actor campaign. Other picks on the list look smart choice, but it's up to the competition how they chances will be, but Forest Whitaker & Michael B. Jordan look like the ones with better chances.

  • Chris L. | November 5, 2013 10:15 PM

    Magnolia released The Hunt, not Weinstein, and they've never placed a nominee in the top categories that I can remember. But you are certainly right about Mikkelsen. Best work I've seen this year. Maybe a Foreign film nod could still happen.

  • Bertram Julius Krogh | November 5, 2013 5:36 PMReply

    Loved this article. Mads Mikkelsen is the actor of the year, in my humble opinion - and all the picks are brilliant. An article like this is much more interesting than one that compiles the frontrunners over and over again.

  • Spring Break Spring Break Spring Brrreeeakkkk | November 5, 2013 5:10 PMReply

    I find it shocking that James Franco's iconic character performance as Alien in the now, let us be honest cult classic Spring Breakers is even considered as an underdog in terms of the Oscars.

    Franco should make the top 5 as Best Supporting Actor list at the very least, if not win and more websites should respect Franco as a contender, as well as the movie as Harmony Korine deserves something also.

    For Halloween, how many people dressed up as Alien, it was one of the top costumes for this year. That means although some people didn't like the movie, Franco's performance hit home hard and some audiences were willing to dress up as Alien for Halloween.

    How many people who make the final voting cut for the Oscars can say that?

    A further argument can be made that if a guy like Riff Raff is willing to insult Franco on twitter or via other means for more than 6 months (even though without Franco most would not have heard of him anyway) because he thinks the character of Alien was based on him (he should be so lucky) but in fact based on Dangeruss (who should be getting more credit and media attention) who actually starred in the movie, plus more importantly black culture in terms of Alien's style.

    Then again, Franco did enough to make even Riff Raff jealous that should generate an Oscar for his performance as Franco nailed it (I actually thought Franco looked like Sean Paul or Kevin Federline).

    Anyway, I truly hope he gets nominated and possibly win.

    I would also like to point out the Scott Haze should also be nominated for the Best Actor lead in Child of God as well as Franco for Director also.

    I know this years list of nominees is extremely difficult because of so many wonderful performances this year but Franco must make this list, if we ever live in a fair society. This year Franco's has undertaken so many successful movies that he deserves some serious awards recognition for his performances and I hope he gets them.

  • vandywisky | November 5, 2013 4:14 PMReply

    I don't consider Franco, an actor who gets tons of work and has been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar already, an "underdog" actor. I agree, however, that Spring Breakers makes him an underdog to get nominated even though all films should be judged equally (oh, only in a perfect world). I feel similarly about Ethan Hawke. Michael B. Jordan will get heavy consideration but it's gonna be tough with two of the five nominations under lock and key: McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave). That leaves three spots for a slew of actors that includes Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street- I don't think he'll get nominated), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Christian Bale (American Hustle)(Out of the Furnace), and Forest Whitaker (The Butler). That's a hell of a crowd featuring previous Oscar winners and nominees. And I'm gonna throw this out there: Phoenix should've won Best Actor for The Master over Day-Lewis last year. Most people thought that The Master was disturbing and unjustifiably set it aside when award season came along.

  • Steve | November 5, 2013 3:39 PMReply

    Just a small mistake, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Before Midnight is an original script, so it should be nominated for best original screenplay, not adapted

  • Chris L. | November 5, 2013 3:44 PM

    It's considered adapted from the previous two films. "Sunset" was nominated in the same category. Doesn't make intuitive sense, but neither do a bunch of their category decisions...

  • Shad | November 5, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    The link about deserving underdog actresses currently goes to last year's article, not this year's. Here's the correct link to this year's list: