Oscar Talk (VI): Best Actor Race Narrows to Denzel Washington vs. Casey Affleck

After the screening of ‘Fences’, Denzel Washington is the new frontrunner for Best Actor, though I think Casey Affleck gives a greater performance in ‘Manchester By the Sea’, the field for Best Actor continues to evolve. It seemed Michael Keaton has all but vanished from the race for ‘The Founder’, no one is talking about Ben Affleck in ‘Live By Night’, but everyone is talking about Warren Beatty in ‘Rules Don’t Apply’. It is going to get crazy long before nomination day.

Right now if they announced the nominations today the likely five would be Casey Affleck, Washington, Tom Hanks for Sully, Beatty, and Ryan Gosling for ‘La La Land’.

In the next month, we will see performances from Andrew Garfield in ‘Silence’, Matthew McConaughey in ‘Gold’, Robert De Niro in ‘The Comedian’, Will Smith in ‘Collateral Beauty’, and Adam Driver in ‘Paterson”. Add to that list those already seen and discussed, Garfield again in ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, Viggo Mortensen for his lovely work in ‘Captain Fantastic’, Joel Edgerton in ‘Loving’, Miles Teller in ‘Bleed for This’, and though unlikely Nate Parker in ‘The Birth of a Nation’.

Here is what could play out.

‘Rules Don’t Apply’ is released and beloved, especially Beatty as Howard Hughes, so he is in as Best Actor, maybe for Best Director. Gosling might fall off the radar if there’s a fall out of ‘La La Land’. If Ben Affleck’s film ‘Live By Night’ is as good as Argo (2012), or The Town (2010), he will likely get a nod for something, and Best Actor seems a possibility, meaning we would have brothers duking it out. Or they might go for De Niro, once a great actor, now not so much, but trying to be so again in The Comedian. If Tom Hanks falls off the list, and he could, Joel Edgerton could slip in for ‘Loving’, but I think Ruth Negga will get the lions share of attention for that film, as Emma Stone will for La La Land.

Or they go sentimental and give it to Warren Beatty who has won an Academy Award for Best Director (Reds; 1981), been nominated four times for Best Actor and not ever won, and has a whopping fourteen personal nominations. Imagine if Beatty were to win, his wife Annette Bening wins for ’20th Century Woman’, can you imagine the photo ops?

But really none of that means much because the real fight is between Washington, shooting for third Oscar and Casey Affleck, looking for his first for a performance for the ages. It does not matter who else is nominated, the race is between these two and everyone knows it.

Either way it is just getting started and should be a helluva ride.

Read More: Every Best Actor Winner Since 2000, Ranked