Best Actor Predictions 10/7

Hello and welcome to the first post on The Reel Life covering the 89th Academy Awards! This post will be my first predictions for the category of Best Actor, with my plan to start with the acting awards and other above-the-line awards before moving to below-the-line awards, and then finally Best Director and Best Picture. Leonardo DiCaprio’s win in this category last year ended his status as a perennial loser in this category and now a whole laundry list of others are seeking this acclaimed prize.

Leo is not nominated again in this category, but here are those that you can expect might make an appearance come January 24th, 2017.

From What We’ve Seen

With the last stretch of the Fall Festival Circuit coming to an end this week in New York, there are quiet a few potential Best Actor players that have been viewed either by a relative view at Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and NYFF, and some by the general public. Let’s start with those that have already had a wide release.

Clint Eastwood’s latest hit Sully premiered on September 9th, and has managed to make waves at the box office while also amassing the love of plenty of critics. At 96 minutes it’s relatively short for an Eastwood film but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t full of good performances, particularly for Tom Hanks. Hanks has won two Best Actor awards in the past, for Philadelphia in 1994 and Forrest Gump in 1995, with three other nominations, he came just short of another in 2013 for Captain Phillips. He isn’t necessarily overdue as he’s got plenty of hardware but praise of his performance has been pretty unanimous and he could definitely land in the Golden Globes at the very least for Best Actor- Drama.


While Sully‘s landing currently leaves Hanks as an early potential nominee, the Best Actor race hasn’t really kicked off otherwise. That being said, Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic received some praise over the Summer, as did Michael Fassbender in The Light Between OceansJoseph Gordon-Levitt in Snowden, and Colin Farrell in The Lobster, and Chris Pine in Hell or High Water. Mortensen and Farrell may find space at the Golden Globes in the Comedy or Musical category, while JGL and Fassbender were unfortunately in film’s that didn’t garner enough general acclaim to make a real splash.

There is one other potential nominee Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation. Parker’s film opened to resounding applause at Sundance in January, and although it will be releasing wide starting today, it has caught flack rightly due to Parker’s past allegations of rape while at Penn State and more recently due to a critical backlash regarding the film’s violent message, lack of three-dimensional character or historical context, and as merely being a showpiece for Parker’s acting. While that could hurt the film’s chances in plenty of other categories, praise for said performance has been pretty high so while the film may not garner any nods in January, there may yet be space for Parker himself in an acting category. Of course the film and Fox Searchlight would still have a lot of flack to overcome to make that happen. And with that, let’s move on to what’s made the rounds on the festival circuit.

Another big hit at Sundance was Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea, an acclaimed account of a story of grief and adolescence in a northern Massachusetts town. At the head of the film is Casey Affleck, who was nominated for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2008 before losing to Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men. Affleck’s performance has received special praise in this film and this film has made it thus far without any major controversy and will be widely released on November 18th, and Affleck may ride it’s success to a slew of awards nominations later in the year. Also premiering at a film festival this year, albeit later at Cannes, was Loving, the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple whose marriage became the subject of a Supreme Court case. While I’ll find time to mention that one many time during the awards season, Joel Edgerton‘s performance in this film seems to be another one worthy of consideration. Unlike Affleck, Edgerton has yet to receive a nomination in any category and could easily play off of that, as well as a growing respect among the Academy’s Acting branch for his near-miss in last year’s Black Mass for his first one this year. Loving is set for a wide release on November 4th.

Speaking of people still seeking a second nomination, this brings me to my most anticipated film of the year, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. Now having premiered at Venice and Toronto, winning the Toronto People’s Choice Award and unanimous acclaim, both of the leads for La La Land may receive nominations among a number of other nominations for the film, which bodes well for star Ryan Gosling, who’s still seeking a second nomination after 2006’s Half Nelson. This film will probably have its name read a lot on Oscar morning and this may likely be one of them, with a wide release coming December 16th. Other festival favorites include Miles Teller‘s work as a boxer recovering from injury in Bleed for ThisDev Patel‘s work in this year’s main Weinsten Brothers film LionJake Gyllenhaal in Tom Ford’s second feature Nocturnal Animals, also much anticipated by yours truly, and Adam Driver in Paterson.

Those Still to Come

It may be October but there is still plenty of big movies just about to come out, with an especially loaded November and December leaving me very excited. Probably the most anticipated film that we still haven’t heard much about is Denzel Washington‘s Fences, based off of the play of the same name, written for the screen play the late playwright August Wilson. Not only is Washington directing this film, but he’s also starring in it as Troy Maxson, a disenchanted garbageman who takes out his aggression and broken dreams on those around him. After two years in a row of Oscars So White, this is probably the best bet there is of breaking that streak, as Washington already won the Tony for playing this role on Broadway several years ago, not to mention his previous wins for Supporting Actor in Glory and Best Actor in Training Day. Look for that one to release on December 25th.

Also still out there is Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which has just recently been confirmed for a release this December on the 23rd. Heading up Scorsese’s film about Jesuit priests travelling to 17th century Japan to rescue their lost mentor, is Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as the two priests, with Garfield being the more likely of the two to reach a nomination. Garfield has come just short of a nod before in Supporting Actor for The Social Network, and also has this year’s Hacksaw Ridge as a potential way into this category. Driver has the previously-mentioned Paterson to boost his chances but he may try and campaign for that one instead. Other big upcoming performances include Matthew McConaughey in Stephen Gaghan’s Gold, which was a winning formula for George Clooney in 2006, as well as Michael Keaton who will try to keep his acting streak going with The Founder, a biopic about Ray Kroc the founder of McDonald’s. I’m still holding out a lot of confidence for David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty, which will star Will Smith as an advertising exec who tries to put his life back together after a tragedy, as well as for Brad Pitt in Allied, newcomer Joe Alwyn in Ang Lee’s much anticipated Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Ben Affleck for his own gangster feature Live By Night. Expect all of these sometime in November and December.


All things considered, and with a few of my own personal preferences listed in, I think that Denzel Washington and Casey Affleck have the best chances of anyone to be nominated right now. Ryan Gosling is in the current frontrunner for Best Picture, but most of the acting praise for the film has gone to Emma Stone, although he may receive the benefit of a lot of boxes being checked for La La Land in the coming months. While Tom Hanks’ work in Sully is likely worth a watch, I doubt that the Academy will show Eastwood the love they did for American Sniper, so I think this seems like a film to be nominated for a Golden Globe but not necessarily an Oscar. I think that Edgerton definitely has some momentum in his career to ride off of, as does Keaton, Garfield, and arguably Gyllenhaal. The difference is that Keaton is still very much seeking to win off of that momentum, and The Founder has the feel of The Iron Lady, in that it may be an “eh” film with a well-liked performance. Praise for Patel has been unanimous even if it hasn’t been for the film Lion itself, although he may end up in the Supporting Actor category. McConaughey and Will Smith both have potential and can benefit from a field full of unseen movies that will remain in flux for quite some time.

That being said here are my predictions for Best Actor:

  1. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
  2. Denzel Washington – Fences
  3. Ryan Gosling – La La Land
  4.  Joel Edgerton – Loving
  5. Michael Keaton – The Founder

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