Oscar Thoughts: Best Actor

Now for another one of the major categories of the Academy Awards: Best Actor! This is one of the most sought-after awards at the ceremony, along with Best Actress, Best Director, and, of course, Best Picture. In lieu of any hesitation, let’s jump right into this one.

Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name as Elio Perlman

With Chalamet’s nomination, he has already made history as the third youngest Best Actor nominee ever, and the youngest since Mickey Rooney in 1939’s Babes in Arms. Although the Academy tends to honor older, more seasoned actors for this award, I’m not gonna lie – I’m really rooting for this kid. Call Me By Your Name deals with such delicate, sensitive themes that could have really caused its downfall had it not supplied the right performances. Thankfully, Chalamet gives us all that and more. His emotional depth (especially his insecurity) felt so true and realized, and his depiction of the awkward, painfully inexperienced Elio just stole my heart. I wanted to reach out and protect him from his inevitable heartbreak so, so badly. It takes a truly top-tier performance to make me feel for a fictional character in such a way, and Chalamet definitely succeeds in that respect.

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread as Reynolds Woodcock

Obviously, Daniel Day-Lewis is pretty much the definition of the type of seasoned actors that often win Best Actor. This is his sixth Oscar nomination to date and if he wins this year, it would be his fourth time gaining the title of Best Actor. This would make him the only actor to achieve this feat four times and no one else comes close! It probably isn’t too far of a reach, though, to surmise that this nomination may not have happened had he not announced his retirement earlier last year. In any case, given that it is Daniel Day-Lewis we’re talking about, of course this is a great performance. I do think that many of the strengths here come with his well he plays against Vicky Krieps, the two of them pushing, pulling, and intertwining with one another to create an intoxicatingly derange love dynamic. As for Reynolds Woodcock himself, he is a blatantly insufferable character I truly love to hate, and Day-Lewis perfect this role with not only superb line-reading, but also more subtle gestures, pauses, and facial expressions. In other words, exactly what I was expecting.

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out as Chris Washington

And with Daniel Kaluuya’s nomination, even more history has been made! Specifically, he is only the second Black person of British nationality to be nominated for Best Actor. A couple years ago when I finally got around to Black Mirror (I was late in the game), I was completely taken about by Kaluuya’s breakthrough performance in basically the only episode of the show I truly enjoyed. I’m glad that Jordan Peele also saw some potential in him with casting him as the lead for his debut feature, because he was one of the most important factors in the film’s concrete anxiety. Apart from so much of the general aesthetic that made Get Out creepy and disturbing as hell, Kaluuya created such a great protagonist who was easy to sympathize with, making the horror with which this film is saturated all the more realized. It’s actually pretty amazing that Get Out got as many nominations as it did, but the most amazing part is that the usually stuffy Academy voters actually felt to honor a horror performance in the way they did. That’s incredible! And Kaluuya more than deserves the honor.

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour as Winston Churchill

I saw someone post on social media somewhere that the decision to nominate Gary Oldman this year is the symbolic final breath of a dying Oscar voter… and I couldn’t even  imagine conjuring up a better analogy for this. If there is anything impressive about Oldman as Churchill, it’s the makeup and prosthetic effects used to emulate his likeness. It’s impressively accurate and doesn’t look at all tacky or cheap! The performance, though… snore. I mentioned in my post on the Best Cinematography nominees that I am so, so tired of World War II movies, so I guess I was setting myself up for failure here. However, it’s also plainly obvious that they only snuck this nomination in as an attempt to finally get Gary Oldman his goddamn Oscar. There’s nothing at all exceptional here – it really just comes off as a kind of good Churchill impersonation, but without the emotional resonance or intriguing delivery to keep it very interesting at all. It’s an Oscar bait performance at its most eye-rollingly obvious.

Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq. as Roman J. Israel

Denzel Washington is one of the greatest living actors (maybe one of the all-time greatest?) and has such an impeccable ability to carry the weight of an entire film on his shoulders, regardless of quality. I didn’t quite get on board with all the scathing reviews that Roman J. Israel, Esq. received – though its ideas were undeniably half-baked, it’s fine for what it is. Of course, so much of what made it even slightly watchable is Washington himself in his best performance in quite some time. Yes, even better than Fences. His depiction of the titular protagonist makes for quite an interesting character, and the best part is just how natural and organically he plays it off. He can get cartoonish at times, sure, but he also never fails at elevating above the material he is given – which, admittedly, isn’t always good. Still, there’s no denying his electrifying screen presence and it’s definitely prominent here. It’s not a film that will even be remotely remembered in five years or so, but it is yet another impressive performance for Washington to add to his catalog.

As far as the winner of this award is concerned, I would love, love, love to see Daniel Kaluuya take it come Oscar night. Realistically, though, I know that this very likely will not happen. Regrettably, I’d say that Gary Oldman probably has the best chances here – this performance is just the type that would win in this category, and he’s definitely been due for receiving one for quite some time. I wouldn’t like it… but whatever. I’d also say that the next best chance would be for Timothée Chalamet to win, given the universal acclaim his performance has gotten. However, his age and the fact that this is only his first nomination do lessen his chances considerably… but a girl can dream!!

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