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Taking a look at potential Best Actor contenders

Onward and upward! After a slight delay, we’re back on track with this series. As you all know so well from years past, in terms of this grouping of articles, 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. Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner) – Best Actor seems wide open right now. If so, why not the hugely likable Jackman, who could be seen as due? Playing infamous Senator Gary Hart in The Front Runner, this could be his vehicle. Especially if this is a comeback for Jason Reitman, Jackman could really be a force this year. It may be a hunch, but for the moment, he’s in the pole position for me.

2. Ryan Gosling (First Man) – Gosling may not quite be seen as due for an Oscar, but he’s close. Teaming back up with Damien Chazelle, Gosling plays Neil Armstrong in First Man. It seems like a very Academy friendly role, so there’s no way you can not have him high up on any short list. Best Actor may be his for the taking if this one has got the goods. Stay tuned there…

3. Christian Bale (Untitled Dick Cheney Biopic) – It may be hard to see Bale winning for this role, but a nomination could certainly be in the cards. He found much acclaim with Adam McKay the last time around, so this new collaboration, much like Gosling above, has lots of potential. First though, this one, whether it ends up called Backseat or not, has to make it to the finish line.

4. Robert Redford (The Old Man and the Gun) – If there’s a safe win to try and predict right now, it could be Redford getting the statue as he retires from acting. Voters might not go that route, but he’ll definitely be in play. If nostalgia/a way of saying thank you comes into play, Redford might see The Old Man and the Gun finally win him the Oscar for Actor.

5. Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate) – An intriguing X factor right now is Dafoe. He came up short in Best Supporting Actor last year, but here he’s playing Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate. You could consider him overdue for a win at this point too. Plus, if that role isn’t baity as all hell, what is?

6. Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) – Depending on how the movie is, Malek may be a really big threat here. Bohemian Rhapsody might be a mess, but Freddie Mercury is an iconic role. If Malek truly aced the part like it seems he has, he could overcome that. His candidacy will certainly be one to watch as the season progresses…

7. Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born) – A lot will ride on how much the Academy falls in love with what Cooper has done here. Whether to not he gets in for Director with A Star is Born, he’s also a major threat in Actor. Could it be overkill though? Maybe, but Cooper is a beloved figure for voters at this point. As such, there’s no reason not to have him right near the top five.

8. Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy or Welcome to Marwen) – Carell has two very baity roles this year. He may end up going Supporting for Beautiful Boy, but for now, consider him Lead for that, while he’s clearly the star of Welcome to Marwen. The former seems more likely to be a player than the latter, but it could take votes away. This is another story to follow along as the season continues…

9. Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased) – If a few veterans fall off, one has to assume Hedges will be right there for another nomination. Few players this year have a better character to sink their teeth into than he does with Boy Erased. As long as he doesn’t fall through the cracks, this could be a big deal. If nothing else, Hedges has a great chance to crack the Best Actor lineup!

10. John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) – Here’s where there starts to be a ton of possibilities. Washington could benefit from overall love for his film, but Chris Pine for Outlaw King may be right around this level as well. Time will tell. Right now though, Washington has the placement, since BlacKkKlansman is the biggest title among second tie hopefuls.

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

11. Chris Pine (Outlaw King)
12. Matthew McConaughey (White Boy Rick)
13. Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk)
14. Ben Foster (Leave No Trace)
15. Joaquin Phoenix (The Sisters Brothers or You Were Never Really Here)
16. Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
17. Tim Blake Nelson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
18. Javier Bardem (Everybody Knows)
19. Ben Dickey (Blaze)
20. Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You)

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

21. Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)
22. Rory Kinnear (Peterloo)
23. Michael B. Jordan (Creed II)
24. Oscar Isaac (Life Itself)
25. Robert Pattinson (High Life)
26. Nick Offerman (Hearts Beat Loud)
27. Andrew Garfield (Under the Silver Lake)
28. John Cho (Searching)
29. Brady Jandreau (The Rider)
30. Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible – Fallout)

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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