A common refrain you hear every year during awards season is something hyperbolic along the lines of, “It's the most competitive class of [insert Oscar category] contenders ever!” You can almost predict it. One year it's Best Adapted Screenplay. Another it's Best Supporting Actor. There have even been years when the Best Cinematography nominees could have been replaced by another list of five and it would be hard to quibble. This year's embarrassment of riches? Best Actor.
Ever since the Academy opened the door to 10, and then up to 10, Best Picture nominations, there have been arguments that they should do the same for the other major categories. Smartly, they haven't done that, but 2014 is certainly turning into a test case. There are over 11 Best Actor contenders this year who legitimately deserve to be nominated for their work. Not seven. Not eight. Eleven. And not only do they all deserve to make the final five, but could have arguably, in previous years, won it all.
This all means, of course, that when the nominations are announced on Jan. 15, the regular snubbed articles (and yes, we'll do one, too) could focus on the Best Actor race alone. Maybe you don't completely agree with all of these contenders, but you'd be hard pressed to find fault with most of them. In fact, you might even believe we've left someone out.
There have been great Best Actor classes in the past (the 55th, 64th and 69th Oscar classes were especially impressive), but nothing like this. So, when whoever's name is announced on Feb. 22 to take home that Academy Award, it should almost be super-sized.
Check out the 11 key players in the embedded gallery below. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts (we know you will) in the comments section.