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Leonardo DiCaprio the new Best Actor frontrunner? – AWARDS ALLEYr

By Sean O’Connell Oscar trackers who finally caught up with Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” at its AFI Fest world premiere Thursday evening have joined the discussion (I saw it Thursday morning and began breaking down Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor chances), and they tend to agree that Eastwood’s lead actor has the best chance of muscling his way into the ongoing awards race. Some even believe he’s the new frontrunner.

DiCaprio occupies every scene of Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” casting a long shadow over a dark biopic of a petty, powerful bureaucrat who lorded over Washington, D.C. and the nation for decades as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“It’s at times a broad portrayal of a broad persona, but I thought the actor found ways to dial it down and make the internal machinations of the man count. And I think it could very well carry him to that elusive first Oscar win,” Kris Tapley writes on InContention.

It very well could, though Tapley would probably admit that Best Actor is as stocked as any other this year, with similarly high-profile names such as Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”) and George Clooney (“The Descendants”) vying for a nomination and eventual trophy. If DiCaprio’s going to lean on the “yet-to-win” campaign, he might find Pitt riding that bandwagon, as well. And all three could be overshadowed by the charming Jean Dujadin, who’s silently powerful in “The Artist.”

But back to “J. Edgar” and its AFI Fest world premiere. Scott Feinberg covered the world premiere with an eye toward Oscar, as well, and agrees that DiCaprio should be the focus of Warner’s campaign.

“He gives a performance of great nuance, portraying Hoover as a spry 24-year-old and a fading 77-year-old — to say nothing of the 53 years in-between — with equal aplomb. His physical transformation is remarkable (and not only because of the outstanding makeup work), as are the ways in which he conveys his character’s mental hardening as he witnesses, learns, and fears more and more.”

So “J. Edgar” has entered the race. Next week, it enters the marketplace. And in time, we’ll see if DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, or Mr. Eastwood himself will find themselves on the campaign trail pushing their period biopic through the rigorous Oscar circus.

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