Some big moves this month from actors in films large and small including a previously nominated indie fave and two performances from certified box office hits.
Ethan Hawke (First Reformed) has been an underdog contender in Best Actor for months. For some he’s been top 5 but for most a 6-10 contender that could find his way in. The four-time Oscar nominee now has Gotham and Spirit Awards nominations under his belt (something a handful of other eligible contenders here can’t say) and he’s going from a quiet contender to a major one. He makes a massive jump from #9 to #3 for me this month on the strength of those early nominations (he’s also bound to collect some critics’ prizes once those start next week), the failure to launch and/or controversy plaguing others and the fact that Best Actor is one of the more fluid categories this year.
I know most people have Rami Malek solidly in their top 5 (some top 3 and I’ve even seen some think he can win) but I’m sticking to my guns (for now) and keeping him outside looking in. Bohemian Rhapsody is a massive hit and a huge crowdpleaser, to be sure, there’s no denying that. But, it would take a giant leap, historically, for him earn a nomination though. Only one actor has ever earned a nomination with a Metacritic score lower than BR‘s 49; I Am Sam (28), which got Sean Penn nominated. That happened smack in between his two previous Best Actor nominations and his two Best Actor wins. Denzel Washington, also a two-time Oscar winner, just made it in with Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film with a 58. You can see the pattern here and when exceptions happen and who they happen to. I’m not saying he can’t get in; but history isn’t on his side.
Malek would be a first-time nominee. In some regards that another hurdle for him to jump but Best Actor is a category that rarely goes without a first-time nominee and he’s in a good spot to be that guy. The best precedent for Malek might be Bryan Cranston. The Emmy-winning actor earned an Oscar nomination playing Dalton Trumbo in 2015 for a horribly reviewed film (60 on MC) but as a television favorite sailed his way through the industry award nominations to an Oscar nod.
Malek also represents, if Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk) and John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) fail to make it in (both missed out on Gotham and Spirit Award noms), the sole non-white actor in the lineup. Malek is likely to earn nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and BAFTA. Securing all of those is usually a sure way to lock yourself for an Academy Award nomination. But, almost every year someone comes in with all of those only to get snubbed on Oscar nomination morning. That could easily be Malek’s fate but I can just as easily see him making it in over Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) or Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased) once those industry awards start rolling in.
That is…unless Michael B. Jordan defies his own odds and obstacles and pulls off a nomination for a sequel. 2015’s Creed was a box office hit but the numbers for Creed II are just coming in and blowing that out of the water. The film is set for a $60M+ holiday debut, the largest live-action take in history. That, plus great reviews, catapult him into the top 10. He’s still a longshot here and in reality this probably does more for his Supporting Actor bid (I reeeeally regret not having him in my top 5 now) but I can’t ignore that this success won’t speak to voters.
Here are my predictions for Best Actor on November 23, 2018.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – chart debut/re-entry
1. Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born (Warner Bros)
2. Christian Bale – Vice (Annapurna)
3. Ethan Hawke – First Reformed (A24)
4. Viggo Mortensen – Green Book (Universal)
5. Lucas Hedges – Boy Erased (Focus Features)
6. Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox)
7. Stephan James – If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna)
8. Ryan Gosling – First Man (Universal)
9. John David Washington – BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features)
10. Michael B. Jordan – Creed II (Warner Bros)
Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther (Disney)
Steve Carell – Beautiful Boy (Amazon)
Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate (CBS Films)
Robert Redford – The Old Man & the Gun (Fox Searchlight)
John C. Reilly – Stan and Ollie (Sony Classics)
Clint Eastwood – The Mule (Warner Bros)
Ben Foster – Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street)
Hugh Jackman – The Front Runner (Sony)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Mary Poppins Returns (Disney)