As with any other year, next year’s Oscar acting candidates are looking like an interesting mix of past winners and newbies (remember Rami Malek?). Malek’s win has proved one thing: even male actors with not much acting experience under their belt, relatively speaking, can win the top prize just like their female counterparts. Granted Rami Malek had done some credible work before Bohemian Rhapsody, but who are we kidding? The greatest actor of this generation, Joaquin Phoenix, is still winless. Will that change this year? Let’s find out.
The below list consists of all the actors who I think have the potential to get nominated for, if not win, Best Actor. Obviously, considering we are still months away from the ceremony, the below list is more of an intelligent guess — based on my past experience, actor’s credibility and film’s potential — than anything else.
7. Christian Bale, ‘Ford v Ferrari’
If Christian Bale is taking up a role, you can rest be assured that he will put his heart and soul in it. in ‘Ford v Ferrari’, he yet again proves why he is among the greatest actors of this generation. From losing weight to mastering the mannerisms, he has done it all in the film. What he is able to convey so well is the steely determination, especially in the racing scenes. The bad news for him and his fans is that he is not the sole lead of the film, which means he will be competing with Matt Damon for the same prize. Well, now you know why he is not in the top five.
6. Antonio Banderas, ‘Pain and Glory’
Antonio Banderas is one of those actors who has been on the scene for a very long time, and yet he hasn’t received the accolades he truly deserves. That might change this year. In fact, that might already be changing this year after he won Best Actor award at Cannes earlier in May. Whether he will be able to carry the momentum till early next year is the big question. Though, just going by the merit of his performance alone, he certainly deserves to be nominated.
5. Jonathan Pryce, ‘The Two Popes’
It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of the film, but I can certainly get behind Jonathan Pryce’s performance, which is exemplary. What will also work in his favor is that he plays Pope Francis, a hugely well liked and respected figure in both progressive and conservative circles of Hollywood. The film itself has been received quite well, which always a good sign for the leading actor.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ surely isn’t liked by everyone, but it is loved by enough number of people who will guarantee Leonardo DiCaprio’s place in the Best Actor nominee list. DiCaprio plays a faded TV actor who is trying to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of the Hollywood Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. The last time Tarantino and DiCaprio collaborated, the latter narrowly missed out on Oscar nomination, whereas the former went on to win Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Unlike last time, DiCaprio is not playing a supporting character but is clearly the lead of the film. He has a lot more screen time, which I am sure should is enough to wow the Academy voters.
3. Joaquin Phoenix, ‘Joker’
Joaquin Phoenix‘s Joker is not just the performance of the year, but one of the best of this century. I know, Heath Ledger has already received a lot of acclaim, including an Oscar, for his Joker performance. But, Phoenix is as good, if not better. So, why is he not at No.1? There are several reasons for that. Firstly, Joker is a comic book film, which we know Academy isn’t very fond of. Secondly, he plays an extremely evil character. It’s not that evil characters don’t win Oscar, but the problem is that rewarding him may feel like celebrating a mass murderer. And in the politically correct times we live in today, that’s a message nobody would want to send. So, considering everything, Phoenix’s nomination looks certain, but there’s no way he can win the award.
2. Robert De Niro, ‘The Irishman’
We can all agree that Robert De Niro is nowadays just a shadow of his former self. Despite being surprisingly prolific, he hardly plays gritty characters that he was so well known for in his hay days. A lot of credit of sky-rocketing Di Nero’s career goes to Martin Scorsese who cast him first in Mean Streets, then Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino. Now after more than two decades both are coming together again for ‘The Irishman’, a $140 million crime saga produced by the new boss of the town, Netflix. Scorsese hardly ever fails, so to place bets on Di Nero makes lot of sense, especially considering he is playing the central character in the film. I am hoping that he can display some of his old rugged charm that made him Robert De Niro in the first place.
1. Adam Driver, ‘Marriage Story’
Very few actors in recent times — or ever — have had a career trajectory like Adam Driver. From “that guy” in ‘Girls’ to becoming one of the most sought after actors working today in a matter of just three to four years is nothing short of phenomenal. Many, including Martin Scorsese, are calling him one of the greatest of this generation. Well, if you have still not boarded the Adam Driver train, that’s going to change once you see him ‘Marriage Story’. Driver owns every single scene he is in, to the point that you can’t take your eyes off him. There’s a certain confidence and vulnerability with which he carries himself in the film. But what really makes him the strongest contender for Best Actor Oscar this year is a long argument scene towards climax of the film that ends in Driver slouching against the floor and crying profusely. That’s not just the scene of the year, but also may just guarantee Driver’s Oscar win.