Well folks, it’s that time. I’ve been covering some preliminary buzz and shakeups in this current awards season for the past couple of months, but as we head into November, the race starts taking a much more solid shape and predictions come into play. All this week I’ll be laying out my preliminary predictions for some of the biggest categories, and I’m kicking things off with the Best Actor race—which, actually, of all the major races is maybe the least exciting of all.
Indeed, while previous years saw various actors jockeying for the top position, this one very much seems like it’s Gary Oldman’s to lose. The beloved performer turns in a wholly transformative performance in Joe Wright’s World War II drama Darkest Hour, in which he plays Winston Churchill. Oldman is indeed as good as everyone’s saying, and bolstered by an Anthony McCarten script that gives him multiple explosive speeches—which he subsequently hits out of the park—this is a film chock full of “Oscar clip”-worthy scenes.
But beyond Oldman, it’s really not that competitive of a Best Actor race—this year Best Supporting Actor is where the real fight is. Timothee Chalamet should absolutely be in contention for his star-making turn in Call Me By Your Name, which continues to rack up critical support after first bowing at Sundance earlier this year. It’s a major contender in multiple big categories, and while younger performers don’t usually score Best Actor nominations, if the Academy takes to Call Me By Your Name the way audiences at Sundance, TIFF, and the New York Film Festival did, he should make the cut.
There’s also Jake Gyllenhaal giving one of the best performances of his career in Stronger, although his footing is less solid given that the film seems to have unperformed at the box office and, disappointingly, is at risk of being forgotten come Oscar time. Andrew Garfield could be back in the mix for his impressive turn as a paraplegic in director Andy Serkis’ true-story drama Breathe. That film has some mediocre reviews, which may stand in Garfield’s way, but the guy’s incredibly likeable and does a swell job in the film. And, let’s face it: if he can get nominated for Hacksaw Ridge, a nod for Breathe is entirely possible.
Denzel Washington is also something of a question mark. He came thisclose to winning last year for Fences, and the buzz was that he could be back with a vengeance in a starring role in the new film from Nightcrawler writer/director Dan Gilroy. But that film, Roman J. Israel, Esq., got a pretty muted response at TIFF and the performance is, honestly, a little off. It’s a showy role to be sure, but the film has trouble coalescing and the performance is one of those that could be divisive—some may say it’s brilliant, others underwhelming.
There are also some major unknowns that could shake up the race. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of our greatest living actors, and he’s reteaming with Paul Thomas Anderson once again for a somewhat secret drama called Phantom Thread—which may or may not be Day-Lewis’ final performance ever. The last time these two worked together Day-Lewis won an Oscar (hell, two of the last three times Day-Lewis worked he won Oscars), so it’s a pretty smart bet to slot him in for at least a nomination. And then there’s Tom Hanks reuniting with Steven Spielberg for The Post, which could shake up the race in a big way. The true-story drama tackles incredibly timely material like Freedom of the Press and Presidential corruption/overreach, and Hanks plays Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. The Academy has a habit of snubbing Hanks lately, overlooking the performer for both Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies (in fact, he hasn’t been nominated since 2001 for Cast Away), so this one’s far from certain but definitely one to keep an eye on.
And another unknown is Hugh Jackman, who leads the P.T. Barnum musical/biopic The Greatest Showman on Earth. No one’s seen the film yet so it’s unclear if it/Jackman is a contender, but 20th Century Fox is also making a push for Logan, so there’s the slightest chance that buzz could come back around for that superhero movie. But, given the Academy’s snubbing of the genre over the years, Greatest Showman is likely his best bet and that’s probably where Fox will put most of its campaign money.
If you’re looking for spoilers or surprises, James Franco is undoubtedly deserving of a nomination or his impressive, hilarious, and surprisingly thoughtful turn in The Disaster Artist if A24 can successfully get the comedy into competition. The Academy famously ignores comedic performance in general, but between Franco and Kumail Nanjiani’s incredible turn in The Big Sick, there’s a possibility for some long-overdue recognition.
On the outside looking in, Christian Bale turns in a terrific performance in the incredibly bleak Western Hostiles, but that film was snatched up by Entertainment Studios after TIFF, whose biggest release thus far is 47 Meters Down. The Oscars are very much a campaign game, and Hostiles isn’t exactly the most palatable of films to begin with (it’s very bleak), so this one may have a tough time catching on.
As for Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049, if the film really hits with the Academy I think he has a small shot at sneaking in, but it may be too subtle of a performance to crack the race. Harrison Ford seems to be the sequel’s best shot at an acting nod, and even then the film’s disappointing box office may harm its overall chances as the year progresses.
As always, the Oscar race is incredibly fluid. I’ll be updating this post regularly as the weeks go by with new rankings, thoughts, and notes, but for this inaugural edition I’ve listed below my Best Actor predictions.
Note that these are listed in order of likelihood of being nominated—it’s definitely too early in this race to start picking winners, even if Oldman feels like a lock.
Look for more predictions in other categories throughout the week here on Collider.