THE 2010 OSCAR RACE — BEST ACTOR: UP IN THE AIR?

Might George Clooney be in again? Not in fashion (he’s never out of style) but in contention for another Oscar. A few weeks ago (here), I suggested that George Clooney had a good shot at his third acting nomination for his role as a corporate terminator (he travels around the country to fire people) in the upcoming Jason Reitman (Juno)-directed Up In The Air. Today, my friend and fellow Oscar expert Mara, an Us Weekly writer, confirmed my suspicion in a Facebook message to me:

“I went to a screening of Up In The Air yesterday in Detroit. (Parts of the film were shot here; I’m in town to visit the fam.) Must say that it is probably the best movie I’ve seen this year. I had a real personal connection to it, as strange as that sounds. It’s so, so smart and funny and a little sad, too. I really thought I knew exactly where it was going, and I’m proud to say that I was wrong.

“My point is this: George Clooney will 100% get nominated for best actor. And he has a decent shot to win. This is the role he was born to play, a la Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. But I think George has more Academy friends than Tom.

“It’s October 30. Mark the date of my prediction.”

Consider it marked, Mara.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role (to correctly name the category) is shaping up to be the most interesting horse race of the year. After seeing the Invictus trailer the other day (watch it here), I’m pretty certain that Morgan Freeman will make the shortlist, joining the aforementioned (by me) George and Colin Firth (for A Single Man).

I suspect that Colin will dominate the critics precursors (with a few bones tossed in George’s direction, as was the case two years ago), but I worry about Colin’s Oscar chances. The Academy recently has given two best actor statues to actors who played gay men (Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Capote and Sean Penn for Milk), so they may be reluctant to go there again, especially since Colin, unlike Phillip and Sean and like Brokeback Mountain loser Heath Ledger, is playing a fictional character.

So if it comes down to George Vs. Morgan, how interesting would that be? Both actors are beloved in Hollywood, and both already have supporting Oscars when they really should have leading ones. Right now I’m giving Morgan the edge because Invictus director Clint Eastwood has more Academy pull than Jason Reitman. Also, in the year of Barack Obama, how can they not be swayed in favor of the actor so skilled at playing The Wise Black Man (Morgan) now playing The Wise Black Historical Figure (and like Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate) Nelson Mandela?

Not having seen either movie, my pesos are on Morgan at the moment, but as a diehard Clooney fan (Michael Clayton was my favorite film of 2007), I’ll probably be rooting for George on election, er, Oscar night.

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