The Best Actor race this year is a strange one this year, as there are an awful lot of contenders, but strikingly weaker than previous years, like last year’s race, which was by far and away the most unpredictable and stacked acting category. This year we have a very strong Best Actress race, which could easily go any one of 4 ways, Best Supporting Actor is full of contenders who should be in the lead race, meaning it could easily go to about 8 different contenders and Best Supporting Actress could go one of 4 ways, with a 5th slot that is more than up for grabs. Best Actor, on the other hand, is only really between 2 or 3 (Fassbender, DiCaprio and, if he can regain some buzz, Depp), with about 10 people that could grab a nomination. Let’s go through the ones that could be in contention, with my rankings of who could be nominated.
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)– This is my current pick to win, even though the film is yet to have it’s premiere. The narrative just feels right- an ‘overdue’ actor giving a performance about redemption and revenge under the direction of a current 3 time Oscar winner. The Revenant is looking like it will lead the nominations (I have it down for 9 nominations overall), and if DiCaprio gives anything close to a performance like his others, he will win, mainly for the name recognition.
- Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)– The current favourite to win, Michael Fassbender is one of the finest actors working today, and, even though his buzz is fading, he’s the only lock for a nomination. He already has the reviews to back himself up and, if the others don’t get the raves that he has, he could take it in a walk. I’m pretty sure that he’ll win at least one precursor (probably Critics Choice, maybe Golden Globe), and also has Macbeth, which won him a BIFA nomination, coming to U.S. cinemas during voting period.
- Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)– A seemingly safe bet, but one that could easily miss out altogether, last year’s Best Actor winner for The Theory of Everything has received rave reviews from critics from festivals for his portrayal of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe. He’s recovered from the backlash against his casting by talking about his research and meeting with Laverne Cox, but the film’s buzz is fading, as it is now unlikely to receive a Best Picture nomination. He’s safe for now, but needs precursor support.
- Michael Caine (Youth)– An acting legend who’s popular within the Academy, Michael Caine could make history by being the first actor to receive an Oscar nomination in 6 consecutive decades. However, it looks like it could be Youth’s only nomination, with the film lacking buzz aside from Caine and Jane Fonda, who probably won’t get as she’s only in the film for about 5 minutes. Like Redmayne, he needs precursor support (especially SAG), and support for the actor, especially is the film doesn’t play well. I think it will play well, as it is absolutely the Academy’s taste.
- Will Smith (Concussion)– Currently filling my 5th slot, but hanging on by a thread, Will Smith needs reviews to be good for Concussion to get in, but he could get in. The film premieres at AFI Fest tonight, so he could end up towards the top of my predictions, or completely out. All the reviews I’ve seen so far have been positive, and insisting that Smith is definitely getting into Best Actor. I’m not sure, but this is the outside bet that I’m going for.
- Johnny Depp (Black Mass)– Currently 4th in the odds but with fading buzz, Johnny Depp falls just outside my predictions, mainly because Black Mass doesn’t look like a major player outside of Make-up and Hairstyling. He could get in on name recognition alone, because the reviews are only saying that it is a return to form, and not saying that he’s Oscar worthy. He’s still in contention because I think he may get into SAG.
- Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies)– With reports of the Academy loving Bridge of Spies and with him being one of the most popular actors working today, Tom Hanks could easily sneak in, especially if 5th spot isn’t secure by the time of the Oscar nominations. However, he hasn’t received a nomination since Cast Away in 2000, and he couldn’t even get in for his phenomenal performance in Captain Phillips.
- Matt Damon (The Martian)– A contender whose odds are getting shorter by the minute, Matt Damon could get in by riding the wave of The Martian, which is looking like it could be nominated for Best Picture. It’s surprising, as he’s not even close to being Oscar worthy in The Martian, but he will definitely get into a couple of precursors, particularly at the Golden Globes, making his chance more and more possible. He’s in a position where, he’s solid enough for it not to be harmed by backlash, putting him in the Argo position of being good and not great, but getting in because no one dislikes him.
- Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)– A film with middling reviews, but has likable actors, this is the only place where Trumbo is in contention. This is mainly because Bryan Cranston is one of the most beloved actors of the decade, mainly thanks to his Emmy winning role on Breaking Bad. He’s been getting most of the spotlight as far as the reviews are concerned, and is a lock to get a Golden Globe nomination. I doubt he’ll be nominated, but could get in on name recognition and, if he wins the Globe, he has a shot.
- Steve Carell (The Big Short)– A nominee last year for Foxcatcher, Carell could be back in the race for his role in The Big Short, a late Oscar contender that has it’s premiere at the AFI Fest later this week. If reviews are good, Carell could be put into the conversation, especially as all the reviews so far has said that he, and Christian Bale, are worthy of award nominations. This is the one I hope doesn’t disappoint, as I’m a massive Carell fan.
Outsiders that could be in: Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight), Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul), Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes), John Cusack (Love & Mercy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk).