OSCARS: Anticipating the Tears for Best Actor Going Into the Winter Break


With SAG voting firmly underway, Oscar voters are packing up for their getaways for the winter break.  Screeners are being piled up, and they look to dedicate some time to watch what they “hear is really good” and what’s going to be “in contention.”

With Golden Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice announcing their nominations, pundits, and casual awards watchers are calling several races on the face in which they stand.  Covering this beat for over ten years, we all know it’s never that simple.  We always try to be one step ahead of Oscar and anticipate those “shockers” or “WTF?” nominations that befall us nearly every year.  Like always, each category is ripe with possibilities.  Where the focus is today, is the Best Actor race.

Before SAG announced their nominations, there was a feeling of a conventional five that floated on the internet: Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name“), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread“), James Franco (“The Disaster Artist“), Tom Hanks (“The Post“), and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour“).  SAG introduced the possibilities of Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out“) and Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.“), unleashing pandemonium in the Lead Actor race.  Not to mention that there are a few others waiting in the wings that could pop up as support builds, in particular, Christian Bale (“Hostiles“) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Stronger“).

Analyzing what the Best Actor race looks from the SAG perspective, it would skew unconventionally young with both Chalamet and Kaluuya on the list.  With both “The Post” and “Phantom Thread” not screening in time (or late) for SAG consideration, we have to assume that both Day-Lewis and Hanks are still in play for their nominations.  Adding in that Oldman’s work as Winston Churchill is still considered the frontrunner, now leading in critic’s prizes, that’s three spots secured.

When it comes to Washington, he’s never been nominated for both Globe and SAG and missed out on an Oscar nomination.  Sprinkle in the narrative that he’s off a huge loss last year for “Fences,” he’s looking mighty strong for a nod.  If there is a chink in his armor, he will likely not be nominated for a BAFTA award since they seem to have a strange affliction to Washington’s past roles, never nominating him before.  Add him to the mix and we’re up to four.

That leaves one spot for Chalamet, Kaluuya, and Franco.  In the case of “Call Me by Your Name,” the major SAG misses for Ensemble and Armie Hammer may show that it’s going to run into trouble with voters. I’m also of the theory that there is “Donald Trump being voted president” syndrome when it comes to Luca Guadagnino’s drama.  With critics and vocal admirers of the film being aggressive to those who don’t deem it a masterpiece, we may have an unvocal group that either doesn’t like the film or just aren’t as impressed with its overall final product.  That same group may just be sitting quietly, not sharing those feelings until it comes to time to make their choices.  We may have seen a preview of that at SAG.  There also might be a feeling that Chalamet is young, and will have plenty of time to get here again in the future.  I overhead a voter speaking of him at a screening for “All the Money in the World” and compared him to the second coming of Brad Pitt in his endless possibilities of superstardom. That could be a shared sentiment.

Kaluuya is in a film that is well liked by critic’s and the SAG nods support that claim.  A newcomer to the Oscar game, it’ll be interesting if he can turn his momentum from BFCA and SAG to an Academy invitation for “Get Out.”  And then there’s Franco, a beloved performance on the year, in a popular film that critics and audiences are eating up.  “The Disaster Artist” seems to top out at two nods but as a former nominee for “127 Hours,” they obviously are familiar with Franco.  Not to mention that the “direct yourself to an Oscar nomination” card is quite impressive and a good one to play at any time.

Bottom line is that we must anticipate the falling of someone strong on the year.  To assume that those three beloved performances will undoubtedly make the lineup is foolish.  As we’ve seen in past Best Actor years where surprises occur, AMPAS goes with someone they know over a young, newcomer.  Look at Tommy Lee Jones getting nominated for “In the Valley of Elah” over Emile Hirsch in “Into the Wild” for example.  Granted, there are cases where a newcomer with a great year leapfrogs someone special.  Look at Terrence Howard getting nominated for “Hustle and Flow” over Russell Crowe for “Cinderella Man.”

With publicists and Oscar-watchers banking heavily on this new membership to change the Oscar game forever, it’ll be interesting to see what they actually choose to do when it comes to putting the pens on the ballot.

All Oscar Predictions have been updated including all the shorts, along with Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling, following the bakeoff announcements.