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.
The group included some who have definite shots like Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour") to more than a few that sadly have pretty much no Oscar chance whatsoever, like Melanie Lynskey ("Hello I Must Be Going") and Ann Dowd ("Compliance"). 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 locked into both male acting categories this year, including powerhouses like Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel Washington and Joaquin Phoenix in the lead category, and Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in supporting (check out an updated weekly prediction charts here). But there's still a little bit of wiggle room, perhaps the same sort that brought performances from tiny films like "Winter's Bone" (John Hawkes, who is looking strong for a nom this year for "The Sessions") and "The Messenger" (Woody Harrelson) into the mix. So perhaps one or two of the following will indeed end up in the running.
Commenters 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 aforementioned Hawkes) and that it only includes films currently scheduled for release during the 2012 eligibility period (leaving out James Franco's work . With that said, here are 10 underdog actors for your consideration.
Comedy rarely fares well with the Academy (though they made a major exception to that rule with Melissa McCarthy, who just so happened to be one of our "underdogs" a year ago), but if there's one comedic performance to consider this year, it's arguably Jack Black's subtle, beautifully weird work in Richard Linklater's "Bernie." Black plays the titular character, an assistant mortician who becomes the only friend of the wealthy, recently widowed woman (played Shirley MacLaine, who also deserves some consideration in the supporting actress category) and then, well, murders her. Loosely based on a true story, the film became a sleeper hit this summer and Millennium is deservedly putting up a campaign for Black. In the end, though, it's likely Black's best bet its a Golden Globe nomination in the musical/comedy category, where he landed once before for another Linklater film, "The School of Rock."
Richard Gere, Arbitrage
Richard Gere has never managed an Oscar nom, despite a few arguable close calls ("Chicago," "An Officer and a Gentleman"). And while an extremely competitve lead actor category makes that unlikely to change this time around, Gere has never been better than he is in Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage." A surprise box office hit this past month, the timely film gives Gere a role made for him in Robert Miller, a venture capitalist nicknamed “The Oracle” who gets into some serious trouble. Despite the Madoffian qualities of the character, Gere pulls off making audiences somehow root for Miller even though he clearly deserves what's coming. It might not be Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln, but it's an admirable feat and a standout performance from a veteran actor who has been steadily working for nearly 40 years.