Best Actor has quickly become one of the hardest categories to predict at the Oscars with several contenders and no clear frontrunner. Though, it looks like Timothée Chalamet or Gary Oldman could rise to the top.
If there’s a category without a frontrunner, it’s Best Actor. Early in the season, Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) seemed to be a lock to win the category. However, as critics prizes started rolling out, it became clear that he wasn’t going to be a critics darling like some past winners. But that’s not always a requirement. Leonardo DiCaprio and Eddie Redmayne basically didn’t win anything until the major awards. It’s hard to picture Oldman winning without at least some critical support. Although, part of the reason he became a frontrunner was because the role is classic Oscar bait — grandstanding speeches, a revered historical figure. That might give room for a less conventional Oscar performance by Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) to sneak in. Unlike Oldman, Chalamet has been the consensus critical pick.
Chalamet is arguably the breakout star of 2017, but the Oscars aren’t kind to younger actors in Best Actor. At just the age of 21, he’d be the youngest nominee in the category since 1939. The most recent nominee to be in his 20s was Heath Ledger who was 25 when he was nominated for Brokeback Mountain. Before that, Adrian Brody was 29 when he won for The Pianist, the youngest winner in this category. His age is going to be his biggest hurdle to a win.
There are a few veterans in contention as well. Any of combination of them could be nominated. As of right now, I think the safest bet would be Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread). The movie, which was arguably the last major contender to premiere, was even higher profile than most of his films because it is supposedly his final film performance. I think it’ll be hard for the Academy to pass up nominating him for that fact alone. It only makes it easier that he gives yet another winning performance. However, he missed out on a Screen Actors Guild nomination to Denzel Washington (Roman Israel, Esq.) depending on how you look at it, but it’s not uncommon for one nominee from that ceremony to drop out of the Oscar shortlist.
Washington still has a chance of being nominated, but he’ll have to contend with Tom Hanks (The Post). Hanks was shockingly snubbed by SAG as well, but The Post also screened for voters later, which could account for that fact. Still, much of the praise for the film lands with Meryl Streep, who is a top contender for Best Actress. However, Hanks has been snubbed for his past three performances — two of them were shocking snubs. I don’t know whether that fact will help or hurt his campaign, but with two strong candidates also on the bubble, I could see him being snubbed once more.
Those final two candidates will appeal to the hipper set of Academy voters — most likely the newest members. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) is perhaps the more surprising of the two. Get Out was always a strong contender in a lot of categories, but Best Actor wasn’t one of them. Still, he surprised with a SAG nomination and could stand as a representative for the ensemble. Plus, one of the most iconic images from this past year in movies has to be him petrified in a leather chair. That will stick with voters. But what has also been having a lot of cultural resonance is James Franco (The Disaster Artist) playing one of the most infamous filmmakers of all time.
Though Best Actor started as one of the less competitive categories this year, it’s quickly evolved to being the most unpredictable. In addition to the 7 contenders I’ve mentioned so far, there are still a few other that have a feasible shot at being nominated. The most likely of which is Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), who could get a late-breaking push. Right now, it’s a coin flip.
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