Oscar voting got underway this week with a January 3rd deadline that, between Christmas and New Year, will be on us before we know it. And so, with only a few weeks left to catch up in theaters and work through screeners, we wanted to pick out a few names who've been otherwise overlooked by prognosticators and experts in the conversation to date.
Yesterday, we took a look at some of the supporting actors, and today, we're putting the spotlight on the leads. Right now, the categories are more or less locked up with heavyweights like Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain as the likely front-runners, but there's still lots of room. And while the odds of recognition for the five performers below are slim, we'd say that they absolutely deserve to sit alongside those whose chances are more realistic. Take a look at our picks below, and let us know who you'd cast your vote for in the comments section.
The performance of 2012 isn't even going to scratch the surface of an Oscar longlist; Denis Lavant is virtually unknown to voters, he's not campaigning, the film was barely seen in the U.S., and being a foreign language flick presents another hurdle (it remains to be seen if even Emmanuelle Riva or Marion Cotillard will make the cut for their respective films). But one can only imagine that, if enough adventurous Academy members actually watched the film, it would surely be a shoe-in. Lavant plays Oscar, a man driven around Paris by Celine (Edith Scob), taking on different personas for self-contained scenarios. It's a wildly diverse selection of styles and characters, from the monstrous, clown-ish Monsieur Merde (who Lavant played in director Leos Carax's segment of "Tokyo!") to a bonkers, sexually charged segment in a performance-capture studio, to more naturalistic vignettes playing a father with a bullied daughter, or a dying old man. Each one is entirely distinct, and each one is extraordinary, and Lavant reinvents himself over and over again across one film. Carax has joked in interviews that he offered the part to Lon Chaney and Charlie Chaplin before his long-time collaborator came on board, but we're not sure even those silent greats would have done it justice in the way that Lavant does. Again, there's not a holy chance in hell of him getting a nomination, and that's one of those cases where future generations will look back and mock us for overlooking his work.
While most people won't be seeing Sally Potter's excellent post-war coming-of-age drama "Ginger & Rosa" until its February release date in North America, the film got a quiet one-week qualifying run in L.A. earlier this month. And this is all because of Elle Fanning's astonishing lead performance as the titular Ginger, a sensitive and artistic 14-year-old girl who is becoming more politically and socially aware but still grapples with her radical father, once imprisoned for his political beliefs and seemingly hell bent on testing every acceptable social more. Betrayed by her best friend and led astray by her father, Ginger is a hopeful, but confused ball of teenage emo angst. But as a vessel for Fanning, she is far more than a shrill, emotional dumping ground. A radiant and transformative Fanning gives herself to this character, letting the pain, anger and tremendous heartache just pour out of her skin. A luminous and breathtaking performance, this may be the best turn from a 14-year-old ever captured on film. Fanning is the real deal and while this performance likely doesn't even have a shot at a nomination because it’s too underseen, it's a fierce and unforgettable one that people will be looking back on when she's inevitably racking up awards later in her career (read our review).