Taking on another important British figure, although one not as well known, the internet's favorite actor (that bears a striking resemblance to a certain aquatic creature), Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius that successfully cracked the Enigma code, a huge step in the Allies winning WWII. But if that wasn't baity enough, Turing was later put to trial for his homosexuality, persecuted by the country that once celebrated him as a savior. Cumberbatch has been the next big thing for awhile. Although things didn't pan out for a nomination last year for the virtually forgotten The Fifth Estate, that there was talk at all for him just shows that people are eager to see him nominated. (His recent Emmy win for the beloved Sherlock certainly helps as well.) And with strong reviews for his performance, it seems he'll be making his way to a first nomination.
Another strong possibility is something of a comeback story. Michael Keaton, whose recent career hasn't exactly been as strong as it was back in his heyday of the late 80's and early 90's (Sorry, I never saw Need for Speed or the Robocop remake), seems to have found a role that could bring the veteran his first nomination. Starring in Oscar-nominated writer/director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's first foray into comedy (but it's a dark comedy), Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor once known for playing a superhero now trying to mount a career-comeback on Broadway. Much has already been said about the parallels between the character and the former Batman's story (in fact, that's been most of what the early press has been about). But word is Keaton hits it out of the park with a nomination almost sure to follow.
Steve Carell may be best known as a comedian, but it seems that his against-type performance in Foxcatcher, in which the star wore a prosthetic nose (well, it worked for Nicole Kidman) and plays the real-life millionaire and murderer John du Pont, might just find his way to an Oscar nomination. That is if he doesn't lose his spot to his costar Channing Tatum said to give the performance of his career in the film. Both have had strong praise and buzz since the film debuted at Cannes back in May, but for now I'm giving the edge to Carell to secure a spot on the list. Both actors are stepping outside their comfort zone, but seeing funny man Carell play a chilling killer seems like the sort of game-changing performance the Academy would recognize.
Steve Carell Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton Birdman
Jack O'Connell Unbroken
Eddie Redmayne The Theory of Everything
My Favorite Best Actor Performances (of what I've seen so far this year)
Ralph Fiennes Grand Budapest Hotel
John Lithgow Love Is Strange
Alfred Molina Love Is Strange
Jack O'Connell Starred Up
Miles Teller Whiplash