In the competitive field of Best Actor contenders, Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”) contends with rising star Adam Driver as well as long overdue veterans Antonio Banderas and Joaquin Phoenix.
Driver’s strong performances in “The Report” and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” support his first shot at a Best Actor Oscar with Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” (November 6, Netflix) –which earned raves on the fall festival circuit — in which he and Scarlett Johansson play a couple dealing with a fractious divorce.
Spanish Oscar-winner Pedro Almodóvar (“All About My Mother”) launched at Cannes his auto-fiction “Pain & Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics), starring regular muse Banderas as an aging filmmaker looking back on his life. Banderas gives a moving, intimate performance unlike anything else he has ever done; his Best Actor win at Cannes marked a strong start on the road to his first Oscar nomination. Critics have backed him, but he missed SAG and BAFTA nods.
Launching well at Cannes was Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (July 16, Sony) starring DiCaprio, who delivers a strong performance as a fading Western star in 1969 who seeks a comeback. Globe-winner Brad Pitt as his loyal sidekick and stunt double shares almost as much screen time but is a the frontrunner for Supporting Actor. Tarantino has a strong track record with Oscar. DiCaprio has been notching nominations but lost the Musical/Comedy Globe to Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) and Critics Choice and SAG awards to Phoenix (“Joker”).
Warner Bros. debuted Todd Phillips’ “Joker” at Venice, where it won the Golden Lion. The DC origin myth stars Globe, Critics Choice and SAG-winner Phoenix as a frail mentally ill Gothamite who desperately seeks attention as a standup comic and finds it via violence. With his fourth Oscar nomination, he is overdue for a win.
Oscar-nominated Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” (Netflix) is a verbal sparring match between Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and his successor, Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), written by Oscar regular Anthony McCarten, which was a surprise hit at Telluride and Toronto. Pryce landed both BAFTA and Globe nominations, while his fellow Welshman Hopkins scored with the Globes, BAFTAs and Critics Choice Awards. Neither landed a SAG nod.
Per usual, contenders are listed in alphabetical order.
Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”)
Antonio Banderas (“Pain & Glory”)
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”)
Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”)