Some of the early favorites in the Oscar race have become used to the attention. Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges could be there for the second year in a row, while the likes of Annette Being and the Coen Brothers are long since used to it. Others like Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Lesley Manville are just breaking into the big time. However, there are other contenders who haven’t been there in some time, or haven’t had this level of success in many years. In fact, their breakthroughs this year stand to end their personal slumps, and propel them back to the A-list.
These names were rather well regarded until some down years, but now they are about to win new favor among new and old fans – and perhaps get some awards to boot. Here are the actors, actresses and directors who will be talked about among the best in their field, for the first time in a while.
Portman was one of the rising young stars in Hollywood, until the Star Wars prequels ruined her standings. Her Oscar nomination for Closer appeared to be a turning point, but she returned to mediocre movies afterward. However, everyone who has seen Portman in Black Swan has raved about her, and said that she’s turned a corner in her career.
In fact, this is the first time they’ve regarded Portman as a fully fledged adult actress, and an actual Oscar favorite. Having stolen Best Actress front runner status from Annette Bening, Portman may finally be able to put Star Wars behind her for good soon.
Rush is still as busy as ever, and has become a pop culture icon from the Pirates movies. However, the Rush that got nominated for three Oscars in five years, and who won one, hasn’t been around in a while. But now the Rush from Shine and Quills may be back, as he stars in the Oscar frontrunner The King’s Speech.
As the eccentric speech therapist to Colin Firth’s king, Rush has become the early favorite for Best Supporting Actor, to match Firth’s Best Actor leadership. 15 years ago, Rush came from nowhere to win Best Actor, and now he stands to make another sudden charge into awards season.
In the early 00’s, everything Kidman was in got put on top of the Oscar list. But the prestige projects for Kidman soon diminished, along with her box office power. Overkill and a declining quality in her movies knocked Kidman back to square one by the end of the decade.
Yet to start this decade, she might be ready to charge up the ranks again, as Rabbit Hole made a big, surprising impression in Toronto. Kidman’s work was declared her finest in years, making her first nomination in years a distinct possibility.
Despite being a legend, Duvall had been wasting away in paycheck supporting roles recently. However, all it would take is one more notable performance for the Academy to recognize Duvall one last time. Their chance may come with Get Low, which was originally set to come out last year, and was released during the summer.
Nevertheless, Duvall’s work as a hermit who wants to stage his funeral has stayed on the Oscar radar for months. He might not get one of those “lifetime achievement” Oscar wins, yet Duvall appears set to add one more highlight on his long resume.
After Bale was regarded as a weak link in The Dark Knight, Public Enemies and Terminator: Salvation, it appears he had played one too many humorless, gravelly voiced characters. Combined with a certain behind-the-scenes audio tape, Bale had to get back to his dramatic roots soon, to turn things around.
Word is that he has done that in The Fighter, as the driven brother of Mark Wahlberg’s title character. For all of his box office success, Bale had never received awards attention, yet his first Oscar nomination could be just what he needs before Batman 3.
David O. Russell
Bale’s director in The Fighter, David O. Russell, has also been tainted by behind-the-scenes ranting. Famous set disputes with George Clooney and Lily Tomlin had turned the former indie darling toxic, and made studios reluctant to hire him. Even if The Fighter takes off, Russell’s reputation could hold the movie back with voters.
But like Darren Aronofsky did with The Wrestler, Russell may find mainstream success by changing gears for inspirational sports story. If he does, he can become both tempermental and bankable again.
Fincher isn’t exactly in a slump, since his last movie was a multiple Oscar nominee. Still, Benjamin Button wasn’t regarded well among Fincher fans, and its nominations did not make up for it. They though he deserved recognition for Seven, Fight Club or Zodiac instead, but there won’t be any such problems with The Social Network.
This time, not only is a Fincher movie on track for multiple nods, it carries critical and audience approval – and gives Fincher a real chance to actually win some awards. Benjamin Button stood little chance against Slumdog Millionaire at the end, but The Social Network will keep Fincher in play until the end.