The race for Best Actor this year was more packed than in recent years, with numerous actors — like Robert Pattinson, Jamie Bell, Tom Hanks, and James Franco — delivering good (to great) performances, but failing to make the shortlist. Regardless, the race was always between the same two actors in what is one of the biggest questions of the night.
The Oscar Nominees
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)
Who Will Win?
If there’s any phrase to describe the five nominees and the two frontrunners this year, it’s “battle of the veterans and the newcomers”. Fresh faces Kaluuya and Chalamet swept audiences this year in stand-out performances, while Washington, Oldman, and Day-Lewis proved, once again, that they are worthy of the weight their names carry.
The category is a difficult one for sure. There is a case to me made for almost each of the five nominees, which goes to show how strong the competition has been this year.
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Daniel Day-Lewis delivers the final performance of his acting career in Phantom Thread, and it’s a finely-tuned, almost physical performance that will be remembered as one of his better efforts. The actor holds the record for most Best Actor wins with three, which is testament to how much the Academy admires him, so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think the voters would want to honour him for his last bow.
Daniel Kaluuya broke out into the scene with his fantastic performance in Get Out. While he wasn’t necessarily in the mix for everyone, award after award nomination solidified his position in the top five of the year. And while he isn’t exactly the favourite to win, Get Out is a titan of a movie and if anything is going to somehow push him past the other four, it’s that.
Because this is the Oscars, there was always going to be one surprise nomination in the pack, and this year, it’s Denzel Washington for his work in Roman J. Israel, Esq. While the actor rarely fails on screen, the nomination was rather unexpected, like Kaluuya, he picked up nomination after the other to end up in the five. That said, what all the other nominees have over him is that their films were well-received by critics, which means Roman J. Israel, Esq.’s lukewarm reception will be the downfall of its lead actor.
And that brings me to the two frontrunners in this race. All throughout this awards season, there’s been a debate about whom between Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name and Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour deserves to win. Both of them give undeniably formidable performances (easily two of the best of all 20 nominees) and have very different, opposing campaigns for the win.
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Oldman’s career spans a few decades of cinema, television, and theater. He’s been recognised with most top-tier awards but has yet to win his first Oscar. And while his performance and role check the Academy’s favourite boxes, and many critics will have him in their predictions, there’s a sense of strong support for Chalamet. The fact of the matter is: the vote for Oldman is a vote for his career over his performance. And even though one is a means to the end, Oldman’s career above his performance is driving his campaign, while Chalamet’s singular performance seems to be the favourite of an overwhelming amount of people. Still, Oldman has worked long and hard for this, and many will think that an Oscar so early in Chalamet’s career might hurt him, so the scale tips to him for now. Personally, if there’s one thing that would make me happy above all else tonight, it’s a win for Chalamet.
Who will win: Gary Oldman
Who should win: Timothée Chalamet
Honourary Mention(s): Daniel Day-Lewis