Of the films we have already seen, Chadwick Boseman buffed his stardom in the lead role in Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther,” while Joaquin Phoenix took home Best Actor at Cannes 2017 as a brutal killer trying to save a young girl from the sex trade in “You Were Never Really Here,” he also gave stellar performances in Gus Van Sant’s “Don’t Worry, You Won’t Get Far On Foot,” as well as Jacques Audiard western “The Sisters Brothers.” And Ethan Hawke earned raves as a melancholy priest for Paul Schrader’s summer hit “First Reformed.”
Returning Oscar winners could include up-and-down shape-shifter Christian Bale, who gained 40 pounds to play Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s “Backseat,” Matthew McConaughey as a hardscrabble Detroit father in “White Boy Rick,” and “The Old Man and the Gun” veteran Robert Redford, who won his last (honorary) Oscar in 2002.
Twice-nominated Ryan Gosling also takes on an iconic figure, moon-walking astronaut Neil Armstrong, in Damien Chazelle’s “First Man”; three-time-nominee Willem Dafoe follows up last year’s nomination for “The Florida Project” as bearded Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh in Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate.” After three acting nods, Bradley Cooper directs himself in live musical remake “A Star Is Born,” opposite Lady Gaga, and Rami Malek channels performer Freddy Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Steve Carell could compete in two rival films: Robert Zemeckis’s “Welcome to Marwen,” based on the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” about a designer who creates a miniature fantasy world as a way to recover from a devastating attack, and “Beautiful Boy,” in which he plays the father of a drug addict (Timothée Chalamet).
Remember, no film will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it. Lists in alphabetical order.
Ryan Gosling (“First Man”)
Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”)
Hugh Jackman (“The Front Runner”)
Matthew McConaughey (“White Boy Rick”)
John David Washington (“The BlacKkKlansman”)
Christian Bale (“Backseat”)
Steve Carell (“Beautiful Boy”)
Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”)
Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”)
Robert Redford (“The Old Man and the Gun”)
John C. Reilly (“The Sisters Brothers”)
Javier Bardem (“Everybody Knows”)
Chadwick Boseman (“Black Panther”)
Steve Carell (“Welcome to Marwen”)
Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”)
Stephan James (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“You Were Never Really Here”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“Don’t Worry, You Won’t Get Far on Foot”)