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Hollywood Contenders – Looking at Best Actor hopefuls

Onward! 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 has got to be old hat to at least some of 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. Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) – Not only the safest bet by far in the acting categories, Oldman is the only person right now I’d say is even locked in for a nomination. Frankly, it would be shocking if he doesn’t end up winning. Darkest Hour has him playing Winston Churchill in a well received prestige biopic. Yeah, that’s as baity as it gets. Bet against him at your own risk. Plus, he has absolute raves coming out of the Telluride Film Festival. That all makes for a potentially unstoppable combination.

2. Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) – Especially with Day-Lewis supposedly retiring after this picture, we have a potential event on our hands. The film is an X factor and an unknown quantity, so there’s a chance it’s not up to snuff, but that doesn’t seem too likely. We might end up with DDL facing off against Oldman in a battle for the ages. Stay tuned…

3. Tom Hanks (The Post) – There have been a handful of snubs for Hanks of late, so will that trend continue here? If it’s Spotlight redux, the film will do well, but the cast might not be as nominated as deserved. Time will tell, but Hanks might finally get back to the dance with this one. It’s no guarantee though, so consider him a lightly contender to move down this list as the year progresses.

4. Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger) – Having seen this film last week, I can attest to Gyllenhaal being outstanding here, as good as he’s ever been. The movie itself has been decently well received, so hopefully he’s in the race to stay. He’ll need precursor love, but Gyllenhaal is way overdue his second nomination. In a perfect world, he’d contend for the win, but I’m sure most would take a nod if, nothing else, right?

5. Jeremy Renner (Wind River) – A wild card! Renner could take advantage of plenty of open spaces here and score a surprise nom. Again, the precursors will have to embrace him in order to have any chance. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but it does seem like this wild card may not be a total pipe dream. Watch out for Renner over the next few months for sure.

6. Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman or Logan) – To be sure, if it happens for Jackman, it’ll be for The Greatest Showman. A big campaign for Logan might help him there, however. For what it’s worth, Logan is the first official Academy screener, having hit voters’ mailboxes just a day or two ago. Make of that what you will. Regardless, Jackman seems poised to at least be in this race all season long.

7. Matt Damon (Downsizing or Suburbicon) – A few weeks ago, Damon seemed like a good bet. Now, not so much. Downsizing seems way more likely to be his play than Suburbicon, though that ultimately remains to be seen. Name recognition will help here, though it does appear like Damon is fading more by the day.

8. Sam Elliot (The Hero) – If there’s an early year contender in the lot for 2017, it’s definitely Elliot. He’s as good as ever in this character study, one I’ve been raving about for months now. Without precursors, he’s dead on arrival, but with the right support, he could help make up a potentially very veteran heavy Best Actor lineup…

9. Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes or Last Flag Flying) *Could go Supporting – A lot will depend on category placement. Carell is excellent in Battle of the Sexes, but he feels a lot more like a Supporting player than a Leas. In Best Actor, he’ll struggle to get to the top five, as you can see. Maybe he’ll be buoyed by Last Flag Flying, or even use that as his play? We shall see.

10. Christian Bale (Hostiles) – Does this even come out this year? If not, slot in someone else (maybe Denzel Washington for Roman J Israel, Esq. or Benedict Cumberbatch for The Current War). For now though, Bale makes plenty of sense here. He got tons of praise for this western flick, so keep him in mind!

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

11. James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
12. Denzel Washington (Roman J Israel, Esq)
13. Andrew Garfield (Breathe)
14. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Current War)
15. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
16. Domhnall Gleeson (Goodbye Christopher Robin)
17. Liam Neeson (Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House)
18. Chadwick Boseman (Marshall)
19. Jamie Bell (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool)
20. Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)

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

21. Miles Teller (Thank You For Your Service)
22. Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes)
23. Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories)
24. Colin Farrell (The Killing of a Sacred Deer)
25. Jason Clarke (Chappaquiddick)
26. Mark Wahlberg (All The Money in the World)
27. Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk)
28. Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049)
29. Woody Harrelson (LBJ)
30. Michael Fassbender (The Snowman)

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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