It’s a banner year for Oscar newcomers in the uber-competitive acting races. Outside of the veteran-heavy lead actress contest, 13 of the 20 nominees in lead and supporting are receiving either their first or second nominations. Considering how often the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tends to play favorites, it is good to see new blood. As voters enter the final balloting period before the March 2 ceremony, the guilds and other precursor awards have provided two fairly solid lead-category frontrunners—one of whom is a first-time nominee.
With wins at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Dallas Buyers Club’s Matthew McConaughey has leapt to the front of the pack in the incredibly tight best actor race, which has see-sawed all season. But storm warning ahead, Matthew: The all-important British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards are still to come on Sunday, and you didn’t even snag a nomination there, leaving an opening for your chief rivals: The Wolf Of Wall Street’s Leonardo DiCaprio, a four-time acting nominee looking for his first win; 12 Years A Slave’s Chiwetel Ejiofor (who is British and a first-time Oscar nominee); and Nebraska’s Bruce Dern, enjoying his second nom. American Hustle’s Christian Bale, who won a supporting Oscar in 2011 for The Fighter, rounds out the category.