Oscars Watch 2017: The Less-Depressing Campaign: Best Actor

Alright, now finally time for Best Actor.

All the rules from Best Actress apply here. Best Actor is just a slightly different campaign due to…you know…society. Men tend to be the leads of major films more often and are often given meatier roles. That means Best Actor can be a much tougher race with multiple actors competing fiercely for the spot.

That being said, that’s not how it was last year, and that’s not how it is this year. While last year was clearly just the time to hand DiCaprio his Oscar so we could shut everyone up about how much he needed an Oscar (There were like two years he deserved to win, the rest he rightfully got trounced), this year looks like a horse race. A pretty standard sort as we’ll get into below:

SURE THINGS:

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Denzel Washington, Fences
Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Casey has always been the real-deal actor of the Affleck brothers. At his biggest, Ben is the headliner, a man of big charisma and everyman affability. Casey is the artist, an actor who knows how to get raw and real and expressive. His performance in Manchester by the Sea as the grief-addled and stuck-in-place Lee Chandler seems to be the clincher for that. He’s the center of the universally affecting Manchester by the Sea and if the movie itself gets to everyone, Casey’s performance seems to be the main driving force of that. Combined with the layers the performance has, Manchester apparently has as many comedy beats as affecting drama beats, it could be an easy one to connect with. Easy to connect with and powerful performance from a respected actor who’s never received his recognition could be an easy enough choice.

On the other hand, Denzel Washington is…Denzel Washington. Washington is an enormous favorite, a popular man as well as an actor’s actor with little public baggage. Fences is a role that he won a Tony for (much like Viola Davis) and that he seems to be bringing the same dynamo performance to. Now, we haven’t seen anything but the trailer, but that was impressive. As long as the movie isn’t totally firebombed, he’s not only a clear sail to nomination, but he’s a fierce contender just by  how much people love him.

Finally, Gosling is a sure nomination for La La Land. A two-hander of a film that popular will get both of its actors nominated. While it seems that Gosling isn’t quite so central as Stone is to the connection and the drama (and is therefore much less likely to get a win), picking up another nomination is obvious..

MAYBE THINGS:

Ben Affleck, Live by Night
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Silence and Hacksaw Ridge
Michael Keaton, The Founder
Dev Patel, Lion
Tom Hanks, Sully

We could have an Affleck showdown! I have a good feeling about Live by Night, and if the movie is good and Affleck is good, the Academy could want to compensate Affleck for ignoring his work on Argo (Yes, he got Picture, but nothing that he personally did). Could be a fun headline.

Again, I’m working on the assumption that Loving is the kind of smart, small issues-picture the Academy goes ga-ga for. Edgerton looks to be the driving force on the movie, and if so, it’s his nomination to lose. Word about his performance has been strong, and he’s been due recognition for a while.

So, I’m pretty sure Garfield will get a nomination, it’s just a question of what for. While Silence is a Scorsese magnum opus, his performance could be decentralized (even as the lead). Hacksaw Ridge seems to be more about him and he’s playing a more clear positive role. The desired rehabilitation of Gibson could come through recognizing his lead performer.

Keaton got robbed for Birdman and that’s from someone who hated Birdman. The Founder might get a nom off the Academy’s continuing desire to finally recognize Keaton, though god only knows if the film will make enough impact for anything. Plus, this seems like a solid choice for the Trumbo slot. An older actor in a picture people respect in a subject people can get.

Patel’s recognition depends on how Lion hits when it goes wider. I think this seems like a solid awards picture and if it gets that recognition, Patel could ride the middle of the road love for Lion.

Tom Hanks is a national treasure and his performance is one of the few great parts of Sully. Between that and the demographics of the Academy, this seems like one for the older contingent. A muscular, morally decent performance. Never bad to bet on Hanks (even if he was unjustly shunned for Bridge of Spies).

NO-GO:

Michael Fassbender, The Light Between Oceans
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden
Brad Pitt, Allied
Will Smith, Collateral Beauty
Anyone from Moonlight for Lead

The Light Between Oceans came out to reviews that could be charitably described as tepid. Fassbender was pretty fine in it, but the film was a drag. I’m guessing that any love for him is gonna be drowned out by the yawns from actually watching the movie.

If Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets nominated for this when Kermit got no recognition for The Muppet Movie, I’m gonna flip a shit.

Like the movie itself, Pitt is gonna be too much about the juicy gossip for anyone to focus on his performance during the all important press tour.

This could be a heartbreaking performance in a brilliant movie, but I don’t think Will Smith or Collateral Beauty are going to be able to escape the bizarre and confusing trailers or the premise, which a friend charitably described as “Inside Out but shit.”

Finally, as amazing as they are, I just don’t think Moonlight wants to push any of the Chirons for a lead slot. It goes against the point of the film and, no matter what, the nomination votes will get split. Trevante Rhodes might be able to argue, but that’s someone who will rightfully get more recognition down the line.


If you ask me, the two spoiler spots will be for Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge and Hanks in Sully. It’s ultimately gonna come down to Casey v. Denzel and who knows how that goes right now. We’ll have to see Fences to make a better judgement.

NEXT WEEK: BEST DIRECTOR

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