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It’s easy to take the underrated Matt Damon for granted. For one thing, he looks like he could be the assistant manager of your local Ralphs. He’s neither particularly handsome nor bad looking. He also has a habit, in life and on screen, of rarely calling attention to himself. So it’s easy to miss him. You know he’s there, you know he’s good, but you’re still not necessarily going to single him out for a rave. Why? Because he’s perhaps even more of an everyman than the guy we’ve come to attach to the term, Tom Hanks. Yes, all Damon does is put his head down and turn in sterling work. Every. Single. Time.
Typically, few people are talking about Damon being a serious Oscar contender in 2024. But he’s got a decent shot all the same – two of them, in fact. He’s in the conversation for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. For actor, he’s tabbed for “Air” (directed by his buddy Ben Affleck) as Sonny Vaccaro, the sports marketing executive who tried to win over Michael Jordan by cozying up to his mother, Deloris. For supporting, his chance is for “Oppenheimer” in which he portrayed Major General Leslie Groves, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer who directed the Manhattan Project.
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It’s very much in Damon’s wheelhouse to be playing a pair of real-life human beings. And he’s won sterling reviews for both roles. He currently ranks 17th in the combined odds at Gold Derby among lead actors and 10th place in supporting. Those sound like somewhat long odds right now, but over the next few months as things start to really heat up and the jockeying for position begins in earnest. anything can happen.
To be sure, Damon has an Academy Award track record, even if he’s only batting .200 in terms of cashing in his nominations. He won on his first try in 1998, sharing the Best Original Screenplay trophy with Affleck in 1998 (now a quarter-century ago) for their “Good Will Hunting” script. He weas also nominated for lead actor for the same film that year. Three more winless bids have come since: a 2010 supporting actor nom for “Invictus”; in 2016 for lead actor for “The Martian”; and in 2017 as a producer of the Best Picture nominee “Manchester by the Sea.”
But you can certainly make a case for Damon hauling in several more noms for his acting work. It’s a little bit criminal, for instance, that he never earned a nomination for any of his outings as Jason Bourne in the “Bourne” franchise, or in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” or for his work opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed” -or for his performances in any of a handful of other films.
Damon also notably has seven Golden Glove noms and a pair of wins, emerging victorious in ’98 for the “Good Will Hinting” screenplay and in 2016 as Actor in a Comedy/Musical for “The Martian.” He currently resides in third place in our Globe comedy/musical actor rankings with 5-1 odds for “Air,” trailing only Paul Giamatti for “The Holdovers” and the ascendent Jeffrey Wright for “American Fiction.”
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