While supporting actor feels up in the air with a melange of contenders, yet also kind of barren, Best Actor is so packed with A-listers, veterans, and Oscar favorites that it’s going to be the most cutthroat race of the season.
While my top 3 remains locked in (Will Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, Denzel Washington), Leonardo DiCaprio makes a big move into the top 5 for me after seeing his art imitates life bravura performance in Don’t Look Up, where he plays an astronomer trying to wake up the news media, and America, about an impending meteor hurtling towards Earth. DiCaprio gets to play low-key drama as well as high comedic hysterics like he did in The Wolf of Wall Street, including an all-out, barn-burner scene right out of Peter Finch in Network that I think will absolutely make voters check his name off. It’s the perfect convergence of actor Leo and real life Leo the climate change activist and it’s hard to see him miss.
But what does that mean for a category that was already so stacked and, as the drum I will keep banging (even if ultimately foolishly), needs to make room for a first-time nominee? Am I looking at that 41-year stat of Best Actor always having a first-time nominee and holding onto it for dear life like a free solo rock climber? I know that I can be an old school stat queen but I’ve definitely moved off of that over the last few years and yes, eventually all stats will break, that’s simply a matter of odds. But is it this year and is it because the field is so deep?
With only one true contender in this category yet to be seen, Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley (which screens next week), we at least have what I feel is a solid 10 performances from which to choose. Speaking of late breakers like DiCaprio and Cooper, previous supporting actor winner Javier Bardem also cracks the 10 with his role in Being the Ricardos as Desi Arnaz. While not likely a winning performance, he’s definitely in the mix, as are his co-stars. Previous Best Actor nominee Andrew Garfield explodes in tick, tick…BOOM! in the best performance of his career and sets himself apart from the cornucopia of musical performances this year.
While critics groups will start to announce next week (Gotham Awards are the 29th where Joaquin Phoenix and Simon Rex are nominated, National Board of Review is the 30th), it’s the Spirit Awards, Golden Globes (yes, even them) and Critics Choice noms that hold the future for someone like Clifton Collins, Jr. (Jockey) and/or Peter Dinklage (Cyrano). The Screen Actors Guild noms in January that would help solidify them in this race, and frankly, they need them. In Collins’ favor is that his film has been in the hands of the SAG nom comm voters for weeks already and that voting kicks off December 9.
One note to frontrunner Will Smith though; bruh, you don’t have to say everything that comes to your mind. You’re gonna win, you don’t need to make it a challenge or a horse race. Although, I know pundits and rival studios would love that so unless you want Benedict Cumberbatch to start making space on his shelf, talk less, smile more.
Here are my ranked 2022 Best Actor Oscar predictions for November 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Will Smith – King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↔
2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog (Netflix) ↔
3. Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films) ↔
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – Don’t Look Up (Netflix) ↑
5. Clifton Collins, Jr. – Jockey (Sony Pictures Classics) ↔
6. Peter Dinklage – Cyrano (MGM/UA) ↑
7. Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM! (Netflix) ↑
8. Joaquin Phoenix – C’mon C’mon (A24) ↓
9. Bradley Cooper – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) ↓
10. Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos (Amazon Studios) ↑
Other contenders: Mahershala Ali – Swan Song (Apple Original Films), Nicolas Cage – Pig (NEON), Timothée Chalamet – Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max), Adam Driver – House of Gucci ↓ (MGM/UA) , Jude Hill – Belfast (Focus Features), Cooper Hoffman – Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA), Amir Jadidi – A Hero (Amazon Studios), Simon Rex – Red Rocket (A24)
Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix