Courtesy of Warner Bros.
September is a little bit early for Oscars talk, but in this case it may not be too early to note that we may be seeing a very bizarre Best Actor race heating up. A mix of traditional heavyweights, forgotten favorites, and out-of-nowhere contenders has us guessing already, and while we’ll inevitably see one or two become the most likely to win, right now it’s a glorious, bonkers hodgepodge.
These, as we see it at this early stage, are the nine men who could be in contention.
Tom Hanks is perhaps the ultimate critical darling, even if he’s put out some decidedly not Oscar-worthy material in the last decade or so. He’s still the best in the business, and somewhat surprisingly, he “only” has two Academy Awards. If “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” melts all of our hearts, and Hanks reaches into his bag of tricks, there could be a swell of support.
Robert De Niro
De Niro is another heavyweight, needless to say, and it appears he’s the most likely of the headliners in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” to be in the Best Actor race. Frankly, it’s hard to know what to expect from this movie, but it does feel like if it’s good, it’s going to be great.
Right now, if there’s a betting favorite, it might be Joaquin Phoenix, for his as-yet-unseen (by all but critics) portrayal of infamous Gotham City baddie, the Joker. It’s early for such odds, and the American betting market is hit-or-miss as is, but some betting sites will be posting with Oscar odds before too long, and Phoenix is a virtual guarantee to be near the top.
Once upon a time, DiCaprio was the best actor alive without an Academy Award. He finally won his Best Actor for "The Revenant,” and now it remains to be seen if he can start collecting, or if the pressure’s off the Academy to reward his brilliance. He’s likely to get a nomination for “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” though this was such a dual effort between DiCaprio and Brad Pitt that we’d call a win unlikely here. Nevertheless - another heavyweight.
Christian Bale rounds out our traditional Academy heavyweight class, with the early buzz about “Ford v Ferrari” indicating that he steals the show (despite working alongside Matt Damon). There’s already some chatter about this Oscars season being less fun than the last, but with “Ford v Ferrari” positioned as a potential fan favorite, Bale could get real buzz if he’s as good as people are saying.
Adam Driver is no slouch, but he’s been an up-and-comer for long enough that it seems bizarre to have him in Oscars talk all of a sudden. Undeniably talented, he’s felt free enough to make decisions that have nothing to do with pursuing hardware - like playing the idiot brother in the charming-but-ignored “This Is Where I Leave You,” or, of course, taking up the part of Kylo Ren in the “Star Wars” franchise. Now it sounds like Driver is flexing his muscles a bit though, and we may have a real star turn - a potentially Oscar-worthy one - to look forward to in “Marriage Story.”
Adam Sandler (Yes, Adam Sandler)
Yes, Adam Sandler is getting real Oscar buzz. He mixes in a serious movie now and then, and while the last time around “The Meyerowitz Stories” didn’t really go anywhere despite garnering a lot of hype, he’s back with a vengeance in “Uncut Gems.” This time really seems like he’s going to get a nomination, and even if he doesn’t win, that would make the Oscars feel like they’re out of their mind.
Eddie Murphy, as was written here recently, is on fire in “Dolemite Is My Name." While this performance comes across a bit like an intentional effort to swoop in out of nowhere, reclaim popularity, and seize an Oscar, it might also be good enough to accomplish those goals. If nothing else, the world is about to remember Murphy’s genius.
Banderas qualifies as an out-of-nowhere candidate as well at this point, as he’s mostly been out of the public eye for a while. He stars in “The Laundromat” alongside Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman, as well as James Cromwell, Sharon Stone, and the lovable Jeffery Wright. And he’s the one getting talked about. This is likely to be one of the films that really sneaks up on people this season, and it seems probable that it’s going to inject Banderas into this twisted, marvelous race.
About the author:
John Collins worked for investment companies before deciding to leave the corporate space and become a freelancer. He is also a film enthusiast and when not working on financial/investment analysis projects, he is busy dissecting some classic hollywood movies.