Is Disney going to throw away it’s shot?
Let’s address this up front; there is still so much up in the air about Hamilton‘s eligibility or ineligibility for the Oscars (I think I was the first pundit to even start asking this ahead of the film’s premiere on Disney+) that until there is an official yes or no from the Academy – and I mean THE ACADEMY, not a single source – then I’m going to hold off on putting it in my predictions. That means no Lin-Manuel Miranda or Leslie Odom, Jr. here in Best Actor despite both being Tony-nominated and the latter winning. It appears that Disney might pushing the film to film guilds later this year and in that case it will be up to those guilds to recognize it or not. I imagine they’ll heed to the Academy, just as they have with the new Oscar rules, date move and extended eligibility. Once the Academy makes a statement then we’ll know what to do with Hamilton.
Delroy Lindo is the type of veteran with a built in narrative for an Oscar win, and it doesn’t hurt that he turns in a gripping performance in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods from Netflix. The film’s debut on the streamer in June was the true kick-off of summer in the age of the coronavirus pandemic and became a must-see, must-talk about film. The big question is, can Lindo hold on for this extra long Oscar season as a 10-month frontrunner? It’s a tough task and not only that, the streamer has major contenders in all acting categories and I’ve already placed Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) at the top of the Best Actress and Supporting Actress lists, respectively. Netflix just won their first acting prize last season (Laura Dern, Supporting Actress for Marriage Story), is the Academy ready to give it two or three in a single year?
Delroy Lindo’s closest competition won’t come from his own film, which is a strong ensemble of new and venable Black actors but it might come from his own studio. Gary Oldman, who won Best Actor for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour three years ago, is heading up Mank from David Fincher in one of the most anticipated films of the year, playing screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz during the tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane. All we really know is that the film was shot in black and white and shot by his Mindhunter cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and written by Fincher’s own father, the late Jack Fincher. If all of that sounds like a doozy of a film it’s probably because that’s exactly what it sounds like. The expectations are enormous, will the film meet them?
Tom Hanks became the celebrity face of COVID-19 earlier this year when he and wife Rita Wilson contracted the virus just days before principal photography on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic was about to start in Australia in early March. The couple were quarantined and chronicled their journey and encouraged social-distancing, saying “sheltering in place works like this: You don’t give it to anyone – you don’t get it from anyone.” Hanks was the first host for this season’s Saturday Night Live At Home episodes and donated plasma to combat the virus. What does any of this have to do with the Oscars? Well, once again, narrative. Even though it took the two-time Best Actor winner 20 years to earn another nomination, Hanks is one of the most beloved performers in Hollywood. His newest film, the World War II action thriller Greyhound, was bought by Apple for $70M from Sony (its biggest acquisition ever) and debuts on Apple TV+ today. But we’re not looking at Greyhound as his Oscar vehicle. Later this winter he’ll be back with News of the World which rejoins him with his Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass in a wild West tale about a kidnapped girl (played by young German sensation Helena Zengel), written by Luke Davies (Lion) based on the novel by Paulette Jiles. The film was originally set up at Fox 2000 but after its dissolution post-20th Century Fox/Disney merger, it was scooped up by Universal and everything about it sounds like a winner.
With the coronavirus upending film festivals for the summer and fall, even cursory Oscar predictions are a shot in the dark with so few films and contenders having been seen. One film that has and already generated huge Oscar talk was The Father from Sony Pictures Classics. Debuting at Sundance at the top of the year, it gave Anthony Hopkins a role that some of have called his career best and the performance of a lifetime. Hopkins, who won Best Actor for 16 minutes of screen time in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, had a good Oscar run in the 90s after his win, picking up three more nominations. But then nothing for 22 years until earning his fifth for 2019’s The Two Popes. The Father doesn’t have a release date yet and as so many studios have been shifting their calendars around with regularity, Sony Classics is holding its cards close to its chest. This is a film that probably would have (will?) hit Telluride and Toronto but even now we don’t truly know what those festivals will look like even as they – along with New York and Venice – have formed a coalition of sorts, a solidarity unlike anything they’ve done before.
Here are my ranked 2021 Best Actor Oscar predictions for July.
- 1. Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
- 2. Anthony Hopkins – The Father (Sony Pictures Classics)
- 3. Tom Hanks – News of the World (Universal)
- 4. Gary Oldman – Mank (Netflix)
- 5. Denzel Washington -–The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24)
- 6. Bill Murray – On the Rocks (A24/Apple
- 7. Michael Fassbender – Next Goal Wins (Searchlight)
- 8. Matt Damon – Stillwater (Focus Features)
- 9. Trevante Rhodes – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Paramount)
- 10. George Clooney – The Midnight Sky (Netflix)
Other contenders: Adam Driver – The Last Duel (Walt Disney/20th Century), Ansel Elgort – West Side Story (20th Century), Andrew Garfield – The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight), Max Harwood – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Walt Disney/20th Century), Tom Holland – Cherry (TBD), Joaquin Phoenix – C’mon C’mon (A24), Jesse Plemons – I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix)