Is it just me or is the Lead Actor category feeling a bit bleak this season? After going over my list for July when I returned to official Oscar predicting for this unconventional and upended year I kept running up against what’s actually coming out, a scandal that might have sandbagged one contender, the supporting vs lead conundrum and, once again, how many performances can Netflix get into a single category?
Four from last month remain in my top five, one falls and a new contender rises. Like LaKeith Stanfield in Supporting Actor, the rise of Judas and the Black Messiah from Warner Bros brings with it a lot of possibilities, including the return of Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) to the Best Actor conversation. While it’s still hard to tell how the lead and supporting roles will shake out – is this a Last King of Scotland or Training Day type of situation? – it seems like WB is going to go in on it and that killer trailer put some strong performances up to look forward to.
Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) falls out for now but it could be brief. The film should be set to resume production soon but A24 has kept most things so close to vest in terms of release dates they could hold until deeper into next year when festivals resume. Same goes for the newest Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix. He’s got the cross country road comedy C’mon C’mon but no word on its arrival. Speaking of A24, by way of Apple, the trailer for Sofia Coppola’s October release On the Rocks arrived last week and with it a contender in Bill Murray. But is he lead or supporting? The screwball buddy comedy co-starring Rashida Jones could find them with equal enough screen time to be co-leads so I’m giving him a home both here and supporting actor to be safe.
Searchlight is also a studio that’s keeping things guarded with no word on two contenders – Michael Fassbender in Next Goal Wins and Andrew Garfield in The Eyes of Tammy Faye – at all so far. Both would have been prime festival contenders but in this year, those slots are few and far between. The French Dispatch has been pulled from the calendar indefinitely (although I’m betting it ends up in Berlin) but is there even a lead in it? One film that the studio is The Personal History of David Copperfield with Dev Patel. It’s opening in the US next week (although already opened in the UK last year and was BAFTA-nominated) and Patel should at least be a contender.
Tom Hanks in News of the World, Anthony Hopkins in The Father and Gary Oldman in Mank remain formidable competition and I think it’s going to take a festival breakout (maybe a lead turn from Regina King’s One Night in Miami) or for someone like Trevante Rhodes in The United States vs Billie Holiday or Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal to emerge in the fall.
Here are my ranked 2021 Best Actor Oscar predictions for August.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – new entry this month
- Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
- Anthony Hopkins – The Father (Sony Classics)
- Tom Hanks – News of the World (Universal)
- Gary Oldman – Mank (Netflix)
- Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros)
- Bill Murray – On the Rocks (Apple/A24)
- Trevante Rhodes – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Paramount)
- Michael Fassbender – Next Goal Wins (Searchlight)
- Matt Damon – Stillwater (Focus Features)
- Dev Patel – The Personal History of David Copperfield (Searchlight)
Other contenders: Ben Affleck – Deep Water (20th Century), Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal (Amazon), Gabriel Basso – Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix), Timothée Chalamet – Dune (Warner Bros), George Clooney – The Midnight Sky (Netflix), Andrew Garfield – The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight), Max Harwood – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (20th Century), Tom Holland – Cherry (TBD), Oscar Isaac – The Card Counter (Focus Features), Joaquin Phoenix – C’mon, C’mon (A24), Mark Wahlberg – Good Joe Bell (TBD), Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24)