Are we underestimating Ralph Fiennes (‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) at Oscars for Best Actor?

How many times have you heard this old Oscar-season chestnut: the Best Actor category is more crowded than ever! It’s the same every year and 2014 is no different.

As the morning of Academy Awards nominations draws nearer on January 15, six names have dominated the field:

Michael Keaton (“Birdman“) – odds of 15/8
Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“) odds of 14/5
David Oyelowo (“Selma“) – odds of 13/2
Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game“) – odds of 13/2
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler“) – odds of 16/1
Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher“) – odds of 16/1)

Yet with the announcement of the BAFTA nominees on Friday, it’s time to add a seventh name to that list. He is one who may very well squeeze his way into a tight race: Ralph Fiennes in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Last year, Christian Bale road a wave of “American Hustle” support towards a Best Actor nomination in a similarly crowded category. Like Fiennes, Bale was left off the SAG list but was mentioned at the Globes, BAFTA, and Critics Choice. Despite obvious affection for both the star and the film, Bale stayed outside of the predicted top five all season long, just like Fiennes.

Related: ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ only film nominated with all 8 guilds

Fiennes is a previous two-time nominee as Best Supporting Actor for “Schindler’s List” (1993) and Best Actor for “The English Patient” (1996). He is currently ranked ninth amongst our Experts with odds of 100/1.

Why so low? Perhaps it’s because he – like Bale the year before – is nominated in the Comedy/Musical race at the Golden Globes, a category seldom taken seriously amongst Oscar prognosticators. And there’s good reason for that: generally speaking, only one, if any, of the nominees in that field carry over to the Oscars, as compared to those in the more competitive drama race. It’s often looked at as a way to honor those contenders with little hopes of making it into the final five, and the thinking must be that Keaton, competing with Fiennes, is the only one with enough “dramatic” weight to break through.

Yet last year, Bale joined Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street“) and Bruce Dern (“Nebraska“) as nominees from the category with enough support to carry over to the Oscars. The year before that, both Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”) made it in.

Related: Complete list of 2014 BAFTA nominations

What do all of those films have in common? A Best Picture nomination, which at this point “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is almost guaranteed to receive. Not only that, but if Friday’s BAFTA announcement is any indication, the film is going to have strong support throughout.

Isn’t it only logical to assume this would extend to the actors branch, who did after all nominate the all-star ensemble at SAG? Shouldn’t at least one star be recognized, namely the one who clearly stands out from the rest? I’m sure Ralph Fiennes would like to think so, and next Thursday morning, it might just happen.

Do you agree that Fiennes is more of a serious threat than some expect? Will he be nominated at the Oscars next week?

The Gold Derby predictions center is based on odds created from our Experts, Editors, and Users. Use our easy drag-and-drop menu to make your predictions, or click here to enter your picks in all Oscar categories, as well as Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Critics’ Choice, Independent Spirit Awards, Grammys, and many of the guild awards.

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