Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey in "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey in "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Every year is a balancing act for actors looking to make a splash during awards season. On the one hand, each performer wants to increase their visibility and relevance by releasing more than one film featuring strong acting. On the other hand, they don't want to split votes with the Academy by competing against themselves during campaign season. It's tricky, but there is a third option: dual nominations. It's been six years since Cate Blanchett was nominated for both "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and "I'm Not There," the last actor to pull off two acting nominations in the same year. Yet 2013 features a strong group of candidates looking to earn two nods from Oscar.

These are the top five eligible candidates:

Tom Hanks

Films: "Captain Phillips," "Saving Mr. Banks"

This is absolutely, undoubtedly, no questions about it, Tom Hanks' year... to be nominated. After a few recent misfires ("Larry Crowne" most notably) Hanks has made a resurgence critically and financially in 2013. "Captain Phillips" is well on its way to $100 million domestic and everyone seems to be predicting solid returns for "Saving Mr. Banks." Both have won over enough critics and Academy voters already to be among the Top 10 Best Picture contenders. The only question is how big they'll be.

Saving Mr. Banks

One may think the early release and praise of "Captain Phillips" would put Hanks on slightly more solid ground than his largely unseen supporting turn in “Saving Mr. Banks,” but the crowded Best Actor race makes the Supporting category a safer bet for the two-time Oscar winner. Indiewire's awards analyst Peter Knegt ranks Hanks fifth in the Best Actor race with Leonardo DiCaprio as the main threat left to bump him out of the race (more on him later). Yet he’s in the top two in the Supporting Actor category along with Michael Fassbender, a field with no real front runner and plenty of bubble contenders who could end up making the cut (I'm waiting for Fox Searchlight to make their pitch on behalf of James Gandolfini in "Enough Said" despite backing Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave"). 

Hanks seems like the most likely candidate at this point in the race to score the elusive honor of being doubly nominated. He's earned some of the best marks of the year for "Captain Phillips," making it hard to imagine anyone bumping him off the Best Actor list (especially considering the film's unexpected financial success/popularity). "Saving Mr. Banks" won't be out until December 20, but buzz from festivals is high on the film as an Oscar front runner while both Hanks and costar Emma Thompson are earning significant praise. All this is say Hanks, who won back-to-back Oscars in 1993-94, could be looking at the chance for two more trophies come March 2--only this time, they'll come on the same night. 

Matthew McConaughey

Films: "Dallas Buyers Club," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Mud"

If Hanks is the front runner to get two nominations, call McConaughey my personal favorite. The shirtless stud who became a bona fide thespian sometime between stripping naked in "Magic Mike" and, well, stripping naked in "Killer Joe," has followed up his remarkable 2012 run with another impressive body of work in 2013. He kicked off the year with “Mud,” arguably the first great film of the year. That high-earning indie helped build buzz for “Dallas Buyers Club,” a film already famous for the photos circulating the internet of McConaughey missing more than a few pounds from his usually well-built frame. 

Dallas Buyers Club
"Dallas Buyers Club"

Though the film has had its share of detractors, McConaughey remains in most critics’ good graces. His complicated portrayal of an HIV+ lawbreaker in 1980s Texas combined with his svelte physique has lead to a strong response from fans and critics alike. Many feel he was overlooked last year and want to make sure an oversight doesn't occur again in 2013. This leads me to believe he won’t just earn his first Academy nomination this January--he’ll earn his second on the same day. 

What makes me so confidant? It's not "The Wolf of Wall Street." While I'm as ecstatic as everyone else we get a movie from Martin Scorsese this year and not in February (like "Shutter Island"), no one other than Marty has seen the film. We can make assumptions about its brilliance all we want. I certainly have, especially after the clip of McConaughey rhythmically pounding his chest while grunting in the film’s first trailer. Yet we won't know if "Wolf" will make some serious Oscar hay until someone outside the studio lays eyes on it. 

What puts my money on McConaughey in the Dual Oscar Pool isn't blind faith for "Wolf of Wall Street." It's that Roadside Attractions is selling McConaughey in the Supporting Actor category for "Mud." It takes quite a few stones to tell voters the only guy on the film's poster isn't the movie's lead, but that's exactly what they're doing. It's a smart move. "Mud" received a lot of love early in the year, and I'm sure the Academy would like to spotlight it in some way. Yet the Best Actor race is too crowded, and McConaughey wouldn't want to split votes with himself in "Dallas Buyers Club," the stronger contender between the two. Roadside Attractions should be able to sell voters on the idea youngster Tye Sheridan is the film's actual lead, and McConaughey was on the poster simply to sell tickets. Things could get complicated if McConaughey steals a few scenes in "The Wolf of Wall Street," but I'm betting he'll find a way into both acting categories one way or another.

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