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Tomorrow marks the opening of Irish actor Michael Fassbender's fourth movie this year, Shame, a harrowing look at sex addiction for which Fassbender is earning lots of awards buzz. (We'll have a review tomorrow.) All the attention is deserved, but we're still left wondering: Where the heck did Michael Fassbender come from?

The 34-year-old actor, who had roles in Band of Brothers and 300 many moons ago, has for sure received good notices before -- for the 2008 Irish political prisoner drama Hunger (also directed by Shame's Steve McQueen) and a single memorable scene in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds -- but this year he has swelled to movie star size with a speed and volume rarely seen. Four movies in one year! And reasonably well-received movies at that, whether it was the whining superheroics of X-Men: First Class, the brooding Britishness of Jane Eyre, Shame's histrionic mania, or all the sexy psychiatry of David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. This guy can do no wrong, it seems! And not but two years ago pretty much everybody had no idea who he was. This is the busy, bumper year of Michael Fassbender and it shall be remembered forever thus!

Except, oops, wait, another actor spent this year being in all the movies after having seemingly come from nowhere. The ethereal Juilliard grad Jessica Chastain actually has Fassbender beat by two: She had roles in six movies this year, ranging from Southern goofiness in The Help to dark Israeli espionage in The Debt. Like Fassbender, Chastain has a few old credits to her name, but boy if she mostly didn't just burst onto the scene this year like some sort of fire-haired rocket. Where were they keeping this lady? Where were they keeping Fassbender? Both are north of thirty, so you'd think they would have had a little more presence by now. But, we guess, sometimes the route to fame is a strange and obscure one. Did they just get really good agents a couple years ago? Did they finally give up their dentist school dreams and settle on this old acting thing? The process behind suddenly being in a million movies in one year is certainly mysterious. We may never know why it happened like it did. But what matters is that they're here now. Long live the king and queen of 2011.

But will they live long? We've seen burnouts before, people who get overexposed and can't continue a more normally paced career (a moment of silence for 1998's Gretchen Mol). But in these two cases we really hope that doesn't happen. It just so happens that these big breakouts are, y'know, vastly talented. It's good to have talented folks around! For our money Chastain might be the next Streep (seriously) and Fassbender might be the next... Hm. Jude Law? He does lots of movies in a single year sometimes. Well, whoever he is, he's good.

So, welcome you two. Now go do the awards circuit and all that, but after that, go take a nap.

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