Tuesday morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this year's best, and -- chances are -- you've heard of them. Certainly, 2012's honorees -- from Meryl Streep to Brad Pitt and George Clooney -- reads a little like a nightclub's VIP list, but among those twinkle-eyed gents vying for Best Actor, there's one that even savvy cineastes may not know: Demian Bichir.

So, now that awards season is in full bloom, let's take a crash course on this year's least known nominee.

Bichir's first adult role was in "Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas," which broke box-office records in 1999 and held the top spot in his native Mexico for three years. (There, Bichir is a household name -- his family, including his parents and two brothers are also actors -- the MTV Movie Awards-Mexico even created a special category for the family, "Best Bichir in a movie".)

His breakout American role was in Steven Soderbergh's "Che," 2008's two-part biopic on the life of Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara. Bichir received critical praise while playing the Cuban Prime Minister, Fidel Castro, but gained wider notoriety playing the long-time love interest for Mary-Louise Parker in the Showtime comedy series, "Weeds."

The actor (who, by the way, looks like a swarthier Clooney) received his first Oscar nomination for his work in Chris Weitz's ("About a Boy") "A Better Life." There, he plays an East L.A. gardener who endeavors to carve out a more fulfilling life for his son and steer him away from gangs and immigration agents. In addition to his most-recent Oscar nod, Bichir's performance has wowed critics and snagged a SAG and Spirit Award nomination.

Amid the movie star fog, Bichir -- as well as "The Artist's" Jean Dujardin -- brings about a radical thought this Oscar season: has the torched been passed? Perhaps not, but for Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling, it probably sure feels that way.
CATEGORIES Movies