2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

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With the fall festivals behind us, there’s one actor to beat: “Darkest Hour” (Working Title/Focus Features) star Gary Oldman as a wily, crusty, and fierce Prime Minister Winston Churchill, using his power with words to fight the Nazis. It’s a powerfully moving and strangely timely performance at a time when strong leadership is in short supply. Oldman will earn his second nomination and could take home the win.

This year there are fewer Best Actor candidates than Best Actress. They range from such lauded industry heavyweights as Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks and Jeremy Renner to a 21-year-old rising star looking to get his first Oscar break: Timothée Chalamet has been winning emerging actor awards as well as the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics’ Best Actor, beating out his veteran competition.

“Call Me By Your Name”

Back in January, Sundance broke Chalamet in Luca Guadignino’s critics’ darling “Call Me By Your Name,” which Sony Pictures Classics is pushing hard with audiences and Academy voters. Other well-reviewed Sundance performances include writer-comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Amazon Studios’ “The Big Sick”), Jeremy Renner (Taylor Sheridan’s summer hit “Wind River” from beleaguered Weinstein Co.),  and veteran Sam Elliott (The Orchard’s “The Hero”).

At SXSW, James Franco earned raves for playing Tommy Wiseau, the real-life actor-director behind “The Room,” the movie within a movie in “The Disaster Artist” (A24); the movie also played well in Toronto. At Cannes, Robert Pattinson won plaudits for his criminal on a rampage in “Good Time” (A24).

This fall, Andrew Garfield and Jake Gyllenhaal starred in respective period biopics, as polio survivor Robin Cavendish in Andy Serkis’s “Breathe (Bleecker Street), and Boston marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman in David Gordon Green’s “Stronger.”

At Toronto, new theatrical distributor Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios scooped up Scott Cooper western “Hostiles,” featuring a superb Christian Bale. Year-end entries include Tom Hanks as newspaper editor Ben Bradlee in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” as well as Daniel Day-Lewis, who’s vying for his sixth (and possibly last) Oscar nomination, reunited with Paul Thomas Anderson in “Phantom Thread,” Lewis’s first film since his Oscar-winning “Lincoln.” (Focus Features will release the Annapurna production.)

Below is the (alphabetical) list of contenders. Remember, no one will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen the film.

Frontrunners:

Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”)
Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”)
James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”)
Tom Hanks (“The Post”)
Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”)

Contenders:

Christian Bale (“Hostiles”)
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Stronger”)
Jeremy Renner (“Wind River”)

Long Shots: 

John Boyega (“Detroit”)
Sam Elliott (“The Hero”)
Hugh Jackman (“Logan”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”)
Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”)
Robert Pattinson (“Good Time”)
Adam Sandler (“The Meyerowitz Stories”)
Andy Serkis (“War for the Planet of the Apes”)
Jacob Tremblay (“Wonder”)
Denzel Washington (“Roman Israel, Esq.”)

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