Oscar Talk (III): Best Actor Race Gets Heated

Who at this writing is a lock? Who is a shoo-in or a likely nominee? Who could crash the party and shock everyone with a nomination? Who was looking strong and has fallen off the radar? Who was nowhere near the radar a month ago and now looks like a strong contender? Two and half months to go before the nominations are announced and the players are out there campaigning like crazy.


The Lock

CASEY AFFLECK, ‘MANCHESTER BY THE SEA’: The actor gives what is not just the best performance of the year, but one of cinemas greatest performances ever. Haunting as a man struggling to live his life under the crushing weight of a terrible tragedy, Affleck is superb in the role. His scene with Michelle Williams, portraying his ex-wife might be among the finest scenes ever put in an American film. Staggering in how great it is, I am not sure we really know yet.

The Shoo-ins

DENZEL WASHINGTON, ‘FENCES’: Though only a few have seen the powerful adaptation of the play, directed by Washington, all critical comments about the actors performance have been raves. I am hearing “career best” and the Academy loves him, so he will clearly be nominated for Best Actor.

TOM HANKS, ‘SULLY’: Having not been nominated since Cast Away (2000) the actor is certainly due having given Oscar worthy performances in Road to Perdition (2002), Captain Phillips (2013) and Bridge of Spies (2015) and being snubbed. Though I hate the term it is called “due”. The competition is ferocious but I am confident Hanks gets in this year.

The Strong Possibilities

RYAN GOSLING, ‘LA LA LAND’: Though the film belongs to Emma Stone, Gosling is very good, and could get in based on the juggernaut that is La La Land. His work is terrific, and this time he dances and sings, further displaying his gifts. I suspect he will be there.

MICHAEL KEATON, ‘THE FOUNDER’: Two consecutive Best Picture winners, he should have won for Birdman (2014) and they like him, they really like him. Oscar loves a comeback, and Keaton has done that. As Kroc, the man who built McDonalds to a massive corporation he is rumored to be superb, which could work for him and get him in.

ANDREW GARFIELD, ‘HACKSAW RIDGE’: In the Mel Gibson war bio, he is superb, his first truly great lead performance showing the talent we witnessed in The Social Network (2010) was the real deal. As a war hero who refused to fire a weapon, even carry one, he is excellent and should make the final five barring any stupidity. He could end nominated for his performance in Martin Scorsese’s Silence — they have to choose one.

WARREN BEATTY, ‘RULES DON’T APPLY’: Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, the winner for Best Director for Reds (1981), he is Hollywood royalty, a reminder a by gone era, a huge part of its evolution in the sixties and a four time nominee for Best Actor, they want to award him. A genuinely great actor, he could get in and go all the way if he is as good as I am hearing as Howard Hughes in his comedy, which he also directed.

CHRIS PINE, ‘HELL OR HIGH WATER’: Best reviews of his career, a well loved film with the finest reviews of the summer, an up and coming major star with a franchise to his credit (Star Trek). He could get in even if it’s a distant possibility.

VIGGO MORTENSEN, ‘CAPTAIN FANTASTIC’: A much loved artist, nominated just once, but who has been deserving more than that. He is terrific as a widower trying to do right by his kids, despite his unorthodox means of raising of his brood. Mortensen is widely respected and well liked, and the performance was brilliant. He could get in.

Falling From the List

JOEL EDGERTON, ‘LOVING’: One, he was not that great. Two, Ruth Negga blows him off the screen, and three there are too many other great performances this year. Of everyone listed before him so far, he is the least likely.

NATE PARKER, ‘THE BIRTH OF A NATION’: Once thought to be the major film of the year, his past caught up to him and he has fallen from grace. He might get in for Best Director, and frankly his direction was better than his performance, which suffers from too many close ups and actor’s moments.

Out of Left Field

ADAM DRIVER, ‘PATERSON’: No one expects him to be nominated because so few have seen the film, but he is brilliant and could impress enough to end up in the race, though it will be a huge shock if he does.

ROBERT DE NIRO, ‘THE COMEDIAN’: Seriously? Not nominated since 1991 for Best Actor, do they really expect the actor to crash the party playing a washed up comic? I’m not so sure.

Read More: Every Best Actor Oscar Winner Since 2000, Ranked