Lots to say about the acting races, so let’s just get right into it, shall we?
Meryl Streep is awesome and we all know this. It will take a lot for her to be back on top of the podium again soon even if she seems to get nominated just for showing-up these days. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS is not “a lot”, so the statue might as well be engraved “I Beat Meryl”
If I had one wish for Oscar night, it would be a win for Ruth Negga. She has a way of stealing the show in everything she does, and her subtle work in LOVING is one of the very best things in the underrated Jeff Nichols Joint. Her nomination might mean the beginning of bigger things for her which is often, the best reward some of these young nominees can come away with (See: Lawrence, Jennifer). Barring a pretty big upset though, Tulip O’Hare isn’t setting foot on-stage.
You get the feeling that it won’t be long before we see Natalie Portman collect her second Best Actress trophy? Thirteen women have the honour of two statues for leading work, and JACKIE felt like a stark reminder that Portman seems like a prime candidate from this generation to become number fourteen. JACKIE is a deserving bit of work, but one that never seemed to catch-on with Oscar voters or audiences at-large. As such, Ms. Portman will remain in waiting – but we should refer to her next win as “when”, not “if”.
Then there’s Isabelle Huppert. Early-on, it was hard to ignore the French actors chances in this category as she kept landing nomination after nomination, and even scooped a few important wins from a handful of award bodies. However, at the end of the day, I believe that ELLE is a freakishly difficult product to move. It’s unpleasant, it’s violent, it seems to take joy in repeatedly kicking the audience right in the goodies…and as awesome as she is in it, there’s just no getting around that queasy feeling voters are left with when the credits roll. Good on Mongrel for landing this nomination, and while Huppert isn’t out of this, her win will be a tough bit of PR to push.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Oscars: Emma Stone became a frontrunner. After the film’s premiere, and in the early days of awards season, most agreed that she was good in the film, and a likely nominee…but few were talking about her to take the prize. Focus was squarely placed on Huppert and Portman, with some wishful thinking about Negga. But slowly Stone became a contender, and with a SAG win behind her, has suddenly become a frontrunner. Things can happen just that quickly in Hollywood. One year you’re celebrating your first nomination…two short years later, you’re the belle of the ball.
Stone is the sole performer poised to take advantage of LA LA LAND’s Oscar momentum, and a reminder that while some performers like Helen Mirren, Mo’Nique, or Christoph Waltz might have awards sewn up from the turn of the calendar…sometimes fortunes turn in one’s favour mid-race.
Ryan’s Pick… Emma rides the late break to the win.
We’ll begin the boys by tipping our cap at Andrew Garfield. The lad had an outstanding year between HACKSAW RIDGE and SILENCE, even if both movies largely went undersold. Garfield is the sort of performer who easily could have slipped into the background after his big breakout as a juvenile and brief dalliance with superherodom. I’m happy to see that he will not be fading into obscurity anytime soon, but his chances in this category are remote.
Ryan Gosling should be much higher up the depth chart than he is. Considering the way LA LA LAND’s popularity seems poised to propel Stone to a win, Gosling’s equal work in the same popular piece, and his overall likability, you’d think he’d be “Hey, Girl”ing his way to a Best Actor win. And yet, he’s nowhere near the top of this race. Is this a sign of how tough the competition is…a rebuke of his contribution to the film…both…or neither? Is being able to play piano not enough for a cookie like this, or the fact that he watched his feet when he dances a deterrent? In truth – none of those things matter, it’s just “not his time”. this good Canadian boy will likely be up there collecting a prize someday, but not this year.
Viggo Mortensen could be a spoiler in this category if you believe “them”. He’s a name that continues to get mentioned and is a talent that continues to be loved by everyone around him. CAPTAIN FANTASTIC didn’t get a whole lot of audience or critical love…and yet, here its hero is, nominated as one of the top five actors of the year. That’s not nuthin’, but all the same, if these whispers carried any clout, you’d have to believe that he’d have won an award or two by now. Thanks for dropping by Aragon, but you can stay comfortably in your seat.
Denzel Washington seems poised to make history on Sunday. Besides becoming the first actor of colour to claim two Best Actor trophies, he could also be joining the elite “Group of Six” – actors with three awards or more (Nicholson, Streep, Day-Lewis, Ingrid Bergman, Walter Brennan, and Katherine Hepburn). If that’s not enough, he could also join Roberto Begnini and Sir Laurence Olivier and become just the third actor to direct himself to an award. Denzel is well-liked, hard-working, and FENCES is a huge moment in his career. His win at the SAG Awards was a reminder of all of these details, and you have to believe his chances will only go up when all of the other disciplines get a vote.
Washington is a talented person who has done great things in the industry, and was in the right film at the right time.
Which brings us to Casey Affleck…
Affleck seemed – and in many ways, still seems – poised to win Best Actor for his powerful work in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. He and his wild beard were winning everything in sight; every awards body, every critics group, all of it. But below the surface, something was being whispered about. Whispers became chatter. Chatter became noise. Noise became deafening:
Because of the posse he rolls with, and the fact that he’s a straight, white dude, Casey was largely able to duck this detail for most of awards season. However, with every passing week, every additional trophy, and every re-phrasing of the question, the story became too big to ignore. It might not be enough to scuttle his career, or launch a thousand boycotts, but you better believe it’s enough to hold Ben’s Little Bro back from getting in on the family Oscar business.
The Oscar race is a stock market, and Affleck’s stock plummeted just before launch date.
Casey was the sole performer poised to take advantage of MANCHESTER BY THE SEA’s Oscar momentum, but is now a reminder that while some performers like Mickey Rourke, or Sylvester Stallone might have awards sewn up from the turn of the calendar…sometimes fortunes turn against one’s favour mid-race.
Ryan’s Pick… Denzel becomes The People’s Champ.