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Emmy smackdown: Who'll win best actor in a TV movie/mini?

Carlos

Edgar Ramirez is probably breathing a sigh of relief that Al Pacino has already won an Emmy Award for his performance in "You Don't Know Jack." Pacino beat Ramirez at the recent Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, but because of different eligibility periods, Ramirez has a mostly new slate of competitors at the Emmys on Sept. 18.

According to many pundits' predictions, Ramirez is the front-runner to win lead actor in a TV movie or miniseries. His Sundance Channel miniseries "Carlos" featured his mesmerizing and volatile performance as Carlos the Jackal, a terrorist who became infamous in 1975 for his raid on OPEC headquarters in Vienna. The five-hour film originally screened at the Cannes Film Festival and actually was featured on several 2010 film critic lists and awards. Even though many thought Ramirez's performance could have been an Oscar contender, the film was not eligible for consideration because of its TV airings. Curiously, "Carlos" itself is not nominated as best TV movie or miniseries, so the overall support might be weaker than thought, leaving an opening for another nominee to prevail.

Oscar winner William Hurt ("Kiss of the Spider Woman") seeks his first Emmy Award on his second nomination. He starred as Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson in HBO's "Too Big to Fail" and gave a world-weary performance of a man shouldering the responsibility of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Two-time Emmy winner Laurence Fishburne gave a riveting performance as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to receive his fifth overall nomination. It was a filmed production of his one-man stage show, which also brought him a Tony Award nod last year. Other "live" performances nominated recently such as those by Kevin Kline ("Cyrano de Bergerac") and Ian McKellen ("King Lear") could not win this category.

Idris Elba garnered two Emmy nods this year, one in this category for the BBC America miniseries "Luther" and a guest acting bid for Showtime's "The Big C." For this nomination, he portrayed Detective Chief Inspector John Luther working for the Serious Crime Unit in London. Realistically, "Luther" should be classified as a drama series, but the same loophole that permitted FX network's "Thief" to compete as a mini in 2006 resulted in a win for Andre Braugher.

Rounding out the category are previous Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear ("As Good As It Gets") and former Emmy nominee Barry Pepper ("61*") as members of American royal family "The Kennedys," which aired on ReelzChannel. Kinnear does an able job portraying John F. Kennedy and Pepper is solid as Bobby Kennedy, but they don't give the kind of big, grandstanding performances that usually win here.

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— Tom O'Neil

Photo: Edgar Ramirez (right) in "Carlos." Credit: Sundance Channel.

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