On March 4th, another year of speculating, debating and rabid movie-watching will come to a swift close when the red carpet rolls out for the 90th Annual Academy Awards, but before we get to the envelopes, a few things need to happen first. The carpet needs to be unfurled, the statuettes need to be shined, and the stacked Best Actor category needs to be put under the most powerful of microscopes.
The nominees for Best Actor are about as varied as they come. Compare newcomer Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) to industry heavy-hitter Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), or rising star Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) to the ever-burning sun that is Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), and you will see a spectrum that is both refreshing and confusing. The refreshing part comes mostly from the nomination of Kaluuya, which fulfills some of the demand for more diverse nominees. The confusing part comes from the juxtaposition of newcomers with established heavyweights, and from trying to predict how the voting body will lean between the two.
Realistically, though, that’s a moot point, as voters aren’t likely to side with either the newcomers (Chalamet and Kaluuya) or the category-mainstays (Washington and Day-Lewis) at the end of the day. Instead, veteran actor Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) has a clear path to the podium. The 59-year old has been sweeping up awards left, right, and center this season, and most critics expect that his hot streak will continue through the Academy Awards. If you’re talking best bets for a win – because, who doesn’t want to win the Oscar party pool? – Gary Oldman is it.
Originally, when approached with the chance to play one of history’s most famous faces, Oldman turned the role down. It's a good thing he reconsidered. His performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is being cited as perhaps the greatest of his long career, earning him his second Academy Award nomination and, quite likely, his first win.
Take a step back, and consider how big of a win this could really be. Not only would it be the first in a long, acclaimed career, but it would be a triumph over the swan-song performance of Daniel Day-Lewis. All other things put aside, that is big. Huge, even.
Is there space in all this near-certainty for an upset to occur? Always. Nothing is guaranteed in life, and that includes the Oscars. Just think back to last year, when the cast and crew of La La Land literally walked on stage to receive an award that they didn’t actually win. While something of that magnitude isn’t likely to happen again, there is always some room for surprises at the Oscars.
The Academy could certainly bestow the award on Day-Lewis, a final acknowledgement of an incredible career. The way his character, Reynolds Woodcock, approached his job as a tailor in Phantom Thread is reminiscent of how Day-Lewis approaches his job as an actor: with an exhausting meticulousness that begets brilliance. Or they could lean towards Chalamet, the youngest Best Actor nominee in nearly eight decades, for his star-making turn in Call Me By Your Name.
However the stars align next week, one thing is certain: the name written in that envelope will be a deserving one. Just remember, if it’s Oldman, after all, we told you so.