Michael Shannon is coming on strong in this year's Oscar race for Best Supporting Actor. He earned excellent reviews for "99 Homes," in which he plays a corrupt real estate broker taking advantage of the housing crisis. And, as awards season gets underway, he's already racked up two key nominations: Best Actor at the Gotham Awards (which combine lead and supporting performances), and Best Supporting Actor at the Spirit Awards.
This is Shannon's second individual acting nomination at the Spirit Awards, following a Best Actor bid for his equally intense performance as a man seeing apocalyptic visions in "Take Shelter" (2011). He also shared in the Robert Altman Award in 2013 for "Mud." And he is also already a Gotham Award-winner as a member of the ensemble of "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead" (2007).
So it's clear the independent film community loves Shannon, but will that translate to a return to the Oscars?
Remember, he surprised awards watchers in 2008 by earning an Oscar nomination for his scene-stealing supporting turn in "Revolutionary Road" (2008). All the attention at earlier awards had been focused on the on-screen reunion of "Titanic" stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
And in recent years the Spirit Awards have inched closer to the motion picture academy's tastes, or the academy has inched closer to the Spirit Awards, depending on how you look at it.
Three of the last four Spirit winners for Best Supporting Actor went on to claim the Oscar: Christopher Plummer in "Beginners" (2011), Jared Leto in "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013) and J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash" (2014). And last year the two groups lined up more than ever before, with three out of five nominees in common: Simmons and his Spirit rivals Ethan Hawke ("Boyhood") and Edward Norton ("Birdman") all went on to contend for Oscar.
Of Shannon's rivals in this year's Spirit Awards race, Idris Elba ("Beasts of No Nation") is the strongest bet for an Oscar nomination according to our racetrack odds. Paul Dano ("Love and Mercy") is also a serious threat at both events. Their remaining Spirit competitors are featured in under-the-radar films less likely to be seen by academy members: Kevin Corrigan in "Results" and Richard Jenkins in "Bone Tomahawk."
Will Michael Shannon win the Spirit Award?
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Photo: "99 Homes" Credit: Moviestore/REX