Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences
Usually I find myself talking about how good all the actors are in this category, but this year the nominees don’t seem as strong. The biggest indicator of this may be that Viggo Mortensen got nominated for Captain Fantastic. I actually liked the first half of Captain Fantastic a lot, but I don’t know if Mortensen’s performance is up to the usual Best Actor standard. Though if pressed I don’t know who else I would put in the fifth spot.
I really liked Ryan Gosling in La La Land (obviously). But he is up against two heavy-weight performances this year, and having gotten a lot of hate for his singing and dancing in a movie that requires a lot of singing and dancing, Gosling seems like a dark horse to win at best.
When all this Oscar talk started Casey Affleck seemed like an absolute lock to win Best Actor. Affleck played a Boston janitor who is wracked with personal demons and depression in Manchester by the Sea. He won the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice Award, and the BAFTA. But the further we've gotten into award season the more people are writing about his past, including sexual harassment charges, and in that light the support for his performance is waning.
Other years (or other actors) may have been able to win despite all this, but it just so happens that Affleck is up against Denzel Washington, who is amazing as a sanitation worker in Fences. It was a powerful performance and one that Washington felt very comfortable in, having played the part previously on stage and winning a TONY for his role.
Who Should Win: Both of these actors put on tremendous performances and each have a case when it comes to who should win. Based solely on performance I think Casey Affleck was slightly stronger, as he was somehow able to add humor in a much darker role.
Who Will Win: But when it comes to the Oscars there are a lot of politics, and with two virtually equal performances and Denzel Washington being far more likable and less embroiled in scandal, I think he will win his third Oscar.
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Who Will Win: It seems like Mahershala Ali is all but guaranteed to walk away with the win for Best Supporting Actor. Ali plays a Miami drug dealer named Juan in Moonlight and meets the film's protagonist at a very young age. His interaction with the young boy is clearly why he is a deserving nominee and winner in this category.
I can't help but note that I didn't think Ali gave the strongest performer in that movie. I thought all three young actors who played the movie’s protagonist at different stages in his life were comparable if not better than Ali in this movie. However, none of these young actors have the resume and career that Ali does, so I think he became the de facto nominee in a movie full of potential Best Supporting actors.
Who Should Win: Lucas Hedges turned out a terrific performance in Manchester by the Sea even if it wasn't as meaty as Casey Affleck's. But God help me my favorite role had to be Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water. Bridges has the advantage of having considerably more screen time than Ali in Moonlight. But Jeff Bridges’ performance is also just more fun, and there's a broader range to it. He has moments of sincerity mixed with moments of seriousness and is funny throughout the movie.
Up next I’ll take a look at Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress