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Hollywood Contenders: Looking at potential Best Actor contenders

Ryan Gosling 600x300
Folks, as you all know so well from last year as well as my articles again so far this year, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen six or so months from now, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m once again running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket. It’s old hat to you by now, I’m sure, but hey…

Today I’m continuing with another of the bigger ones that’s out there for us…the Best Actor category.

Here are the ten particular gentlemen that I have in play for Best Actor, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:

1. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) – I might be out on a limb here with Affleck in Kenneth Lonergan’s drama, but Manchester by the Sea was so highly praised at the Sundance Film Festival, I just think he’ll be in major contention. He’s an underrated actor with a nomination already under his belt, so it could very well set up nicely for him to really contend for the win. At least at this moment, Affleck is ever so slightly in the pole position for me.

2. Ryan Gosling (La La Land or The Nice Guys) – Considering how I have La La Land as the big winner so far, Gosling is a strong number two, with designs on the top spot. The Trailer just hit today (I’ll write something up on it soon) for Damien Chazelle’s latest, and it’s stunning stuff. I have no doubt that Gosling will be in contention, so if this is as big a player as I think it is, he’s almost assured of being high up here. If he gets in, he definitely could win.

3. Michael Keaton (The Founder) – Early on, many had Keaton as the likely winner for John Lee Hancock’s biopic of Ray Croc. The Founder has since lost a little of its prestige buzz/luster, but that shouldn’t prevent Keaton from having a good shot at getting back into the Best Actor lineup. He fell just shy of winning last time around, so maybe this will be the one to do it for him? Stay tuned…

4. Will Smith (Collateral Beauty) – After having just missed last year, could Smith get over the hump this year and set himself up for his first win? Collateral Beauty seems like an awards vehicle, give or take director David Frankel, but Smith is Hollywood royalty, so that’s always a benefit. He might suffer the same fate as last year, but for now, I think he’s in a good position to slip in with some degree of ease.

5. Chris Pratt (Passengers) – This is a bit of a hunch, but Pratt is becoming a huge A-lister, so with Passengers his first opportunity to really be in a top tier contender, he might knock it out of the park. Director Morton Tyldum crafted an Oscar winner last time out, so he’s got the pedigree, that’s for sure. Some legal troubles with the visual effects team might damage this one, possibly even putting it into 2017, but if that doesn’t happen, Pratt could certainly be a thing.

6. Tom Hanks (Sully) – It would be really easy to just plug Hanks in for Best Actor here, as it’s a Clint Eastwood directed biopic of an American hero. Sully has plenty going in its favor, especially since Eastwood is back in the Academy’s good graces, but Hanks has missed a bunch lately. This will be a test of his power among voters. If he’s snubbed again, he might not ever be back. This will be a storyline well worth following this season folks…

7. Joel Edgerton (Loving) – Yesterday’s release of a Trailer for Loving certainly shows Edgerton as a force in Jeff Nichols’ surefire awards player. Edgerton looks great and should be in the conversation right up until the very end. He might be a bit too subtle/low key to get over the hump, but that remains to be seen. If you don’t have him in at least your top ten right now, you’re frankly just being foolish!

8. Ben Affleck (Live by Night) *Potential 2017 release – Much like I hinted last week, Affleck could potentially be in play for his new directorial endeavor Live by Night. Wouldn’t it be something if he competed against his brother for the Best Actor statue? It would be a big enough deal alone if they both managed nominations, which I don’t currently have happening. Perhaps I’ll change before new predictions go up on Friday though, so sit tight…

9. Andrew Garfield (Silence) *Could go Supporting – The snub for The Social Network still stings, so it might be that Garfield is due a make up nomination. Certainly, he’s buoyed by being a potential lead in Martin Scorsese’s passion project Silence, though he also could go Supporting. Regardless of where Garfield winds up, I expect him to be a notable contender, at least for part of the season.

10. Joe Alwyn (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk) – I’m opting for a newcomer in Alwyn here, who will be the anchor controlling if Ang Lee’s film sinks or floats. I’ve read Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and quite liked it, but know how huge a role this is. I almost went with other folks here (namely Jake Gyllenhaal for Nocturnal Animals or David Oyelowo for A United Kingdom), but on potential alone, I had to stick with the younger fella for now.

Michael Fassbender
Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans any commentary here) for Best Actor:

11. David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom)
12. Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals)
13. Miles Teller (Bleed for This)
14. Brad Pitt (Arrival or War Machine)
15. Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation)
16. Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans)
17. Dev Patel (Lion)
18. Denzel Washington (Fences)
19. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden)
20. Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Finally, here are ten more fellas to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Woody Harrelson (LBJ or Wilson)
22. Colin Farrell (The Lobster)
23. Tye Sheridan (The Yellow Birds)
24. Edgar Ramirez (Hands of Stone)
25. Adam Driver (Paterson)
26. Logan Lerman (Indignation)
27. Parker Sawyers (Southside with You)
28. Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon or Patriots Day)
29. Cliff Curtis (The Dark Horse)
30. Anton Yelchin (Green Room)

That’s what the Best Actor race could be made up of this year ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Actress race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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