Last Updated: February 6th
While the Oscar nominations announcement finally illuminated who would be in the running for Best Actor, this is one Oscar race that feels like it’s been sewn up since September. Indeed, that’s when Gary Oldman‘s towering turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour debuted, and at that time I posited that he was almost certainly the early frontrunner to win the top prize on Oscar night.
That has seemed to bear out over the ensuing months, even as Call Me by Your Name standout Timothée Chalamet has been nipping at Oldman’s heels. But Chalamet is the youngest Best Actor nominee in decades, and unlike the Best Actress category, for whatever reason Best Actor rarely goes to a young performer. Still, I’d say Chalamet is in second place for the top prize here if Oldman were to lose ground for whatever reason.
But it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Oldman won the SAG Award for Best Actor pretty easily, and did the same at the Golden Globes a few weeks earlier. His acceptance speeches have been gracious—nothing that would glaringly cause voters to rethink their ballots. And after all, this only Oldman’s second-ever career Oscar nomination. He scored his first nod just a few years ago for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so it’s not like Oldman’s going to fall victim to “been there, done that” syndrome.
It’s true that the SAG Award last year for Best Actor went to Denzel Washington and Casey Affleck ended up winning the Oscar, but the two actors had been neck-and-neck all throughout Oscar season that year. In this year’s race, no one’s really come close to touching Oldman, and you have to go all the way back to 2003 when Johnny Depp won the SAG for Pirates of the Caribbean to find the last time these two awards didn’t match up.
Elsewhere in the category, Daniel Day-Lewis does indeed turn in a spectacular performance in Phantom Thread, but it’s not the kind of showy role like Lincoln or There Will Be Blood where he gets all the kudos—even if what Day-Lewis does in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s latest is in many ways more subtle and challenging than some of his other lauded performances. The “it” factor here is that it’s Day-Lewis’ final performance ever, as the actor says he’s retiring, so if you really want to play a Dark Horse spoiler I could see a very tiny chance that Day-Lewis surprises here. But I don’t think it’s likely.
So yeah, as has been the case since September, this one is Oldman’s to lose. For posterity’s sake, however, I’ve offered my Best Actor predictions below in order of likelihood to win.