Michael Stuhlbarg (‘Call Me by Your Name’): Why character actor could finally strike Oscar gold

There’s a phenomenon at the Oscars and Emmys that I’ve come to describe as “Character Actor Done Good.” There comes a point when a well-liked journeyman actor’s body of work reaches critical mass, leading to an awards breakthrough when they find just the right role at just the right time. Consider the Oscar wins for veterans like Jim Broadbent (2001’s “Iris”), Chris Cooper (2002’s “Adaptation”), and J.K. Simmons (2014’s “Whiplash”), plus Emmy wins for Margo Martindale (“Justified” and “The Americans”) and Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). This year we could see that kind of Oscar push for Michael Stuhlbarg thanks to his role in “Call Me by Your Name,” which opens November 24.

Stuhlbarg plays Mr. Pearlman, a teacher living in Italy whose teenage son (Timothee Chalamet) falls in love with Mr. Pearlman’s visiting graduate student (Armie Hammer). It’s a relatively small, understated role but includes a powerful, sit-up-and-take-notice scene reminiscent of other Oscar contenders in recent years like Viola Davis in “Doubt” and Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea.” Or to reach farther back in Oscar history, you could call it his Beatrice Straight moment.

This would be Stuhlbarg’s first Oscar nomination, which is surprising in and of itself when you consider his resume. He rose to prominence in the Coen Brothers’ 2009 film “A Serious Man,” which earned Stuhlbarg a Golden Globe nom and picked up Oscar bids for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Since then the actor has appeared in “Hugo,” “Lincoln,” “Hitchcock,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Steve Jobs,” “Trumbo,” “Arrival,” and “Doctor Strange” — and that’s just the Oscar nominees. Now 2017 appears as though it will be just as prolific a year for the actor with additional roles in “The Shape of Water” and “The Post,” both among our predicted contenders for Best Picture.

A filmography like that will help him in this awards race because by now it seems like he’s worked with practically the entire voting membership of the academy, both in front of and behind the camera. On TV he has also worked on “Boardwalk Empire,” “Transparent,” and “Fargo,” so his industry peers may consider him even more overdue for a pat on the back for his work.

As of this writing Stuhlbarg looks like a strong candidate for Best Supporting Actor, ranking second in our combined predictions with odds of 11/2, placing him just behind frontrunner Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”). Do you think he’ll prevail?

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives and top name stars can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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