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Best Actor – Sean Penn, “I Am Sam”

Film: I Am Sam

Previous wins for role: None

Previous Oscar wins/nominations:
Nominated for Best Actor, Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
Nominated for Best Actor, Dead Man Walking (1995)

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Character bio: Penn plays Sam Dawson, a mentally challenged father raising his daughter Lucy alone. Their close bond is threatened when Lucy begins to intellectually surpass her father. When the situation comes under the scrutiny of a social worker who wants Lucy placed in foster care, Sam vows to fight the legal system and forms an unlikely alliance with Rita Harrison, a high-powered, self-absorbed attorney. Together they fuse a bond that results in a unique testament to the power of unconditional love.

Oscar odds: We all know the Academy loves to recognize actors who portray mentally retarded characters, like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump (1994), but that probably won’t be the case this year. Sam tanked, both critically and at the box office. Plus, Sean Penn isn’t one of Hollywood’s most endearing actors–you get the sense that he could care less. Of the darker horses in this race, Denzel Washington (Training Day) has a better shot at the Oscar than Penn. —Guylaine Cadorette

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