The Academy loves certain performances. Actors know this. They love a good biopic. (Musical ones have been big recently.) So if you want your Oscar, make sure you have one of these roles on your schedule for next year:
From Pretty to Not So Pretty
This time around The Joker's trademark grin was the result of a terribly severed face rather than a clever make-up job. In fact, his make-up job was more slapped together than detailed clown paint. Ledger used the creepy look to jumpstart, and elevate, Batman's famed arch-nemesis to a whole new level of sinister, one far beyond the snickering purple-suited no-gooder of performances past. This Joker was a tragic, psychologically warped figure who simply wanted "to watch the world burn."
Quite simply one of the most stunning transformations in movie history, Theron's performance often came second to the visual shock of seeing the South African beauty attain the look of Aileen Wuornos. Theron also offered a nuanced performance, channeling the ugly girl within to play the psychologically conflicted real life killer.
Oscar Bait: Physical and Mental Disabilities
After surfacing in the '80s by portraying various incarnations of the same funlovin' character in silly comedies like The Man with One Red Show and The Burbs, Hanks officially completed his transformation to legitimate actor with this touching portrayal of Winston Groom's titular character. He also took home the Best Actor Oscar for the second consecutive year, which should have been enough to erase Joe Versus the Volcano and Tuner and Hooch from audiences' minds forever.
He'd already pulled off playing a woman, so the autistic Raymond Babbitt should have been a walk in the park by comparison. One of America's best actors for more than two decades, Hoffman's performance in Rain Man made you completely forget anything the actor had done before. He simply was the Rain Man. Sadly, the performance had the side-effect of opening the floodgates for a sea of Oscar hopefuls banking on mentally challenged roles to bait their Oscar fishing line. (see "Failures" below).
Don't forget to check out the others, as well as the potential failures. (When you go from pretty to ugly, don't get a fat suit. The Oscar doesn't love that.)