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2018 Academy Award Odds: Best Actor

Kaela Napier

by Kaela Napier in Entertainment

Jan 17, 2018 · 3:54 PM PST

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Oscars logo, c/o ABC television Image: Disney | ABC Television Group (flickr).

The official Academy Award nomination announcements are only about a week away, meaning that the red carpet itself will be here in just over a month. Movies, directors, actors and actresses continue to trend up and down as Hollywood’s biggest night approaches, and while there are some potential winners seemingly on lock at this point, there is still a substantial amount of wiggle room left-over.

Last week, the Best Director category got its time in the spotlight. This week, we are digging deeper into the five leading men most likely to receive a nomination for Best Actor and assessing who will walk away with the Oscar statuette on March 4th.

Most experts seem to agree that Gary Oldman is the heavy favorite, and with Daniel Day-Lewis also eligible for the award, two nomination spots are already spoken for. But what of the other three spots? And is Oldman’s really a shoo-in?

Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman at the premiere of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. 2011.
Gary Oldman at the premiere of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in 2011. (Photo: Sam (flickr) [CC License])

A transformative performance as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour already earned Gary Oldman his first Golden Globe, and at this point in the race, it seems highly likely that he will be walking away with his first Oscar, as well. Thirty-five years into his career, Oldman has delivered arguably the performance of a lifetime.

It is, as Danny Leigh at The Guardian put it, ironic that Oldman would be playing Churchill at all — “the aristocratic scion of Blenheim Palace, scourge of the striking miners of Tonypandy, portrayed by the son of a welder whose first job on leaving school at 16 was in a Peckham sports shop.” Thankfully, irony has always served the stage well.

Across the board, sportsbooks are giving Oldman the shortest odds, even though no official nominations have been announced. He’s as short as 1/10. While many of his peers are also deserving of a shot at the award, Oldman’s hyper-short odds are not outlandish. Rarely has the buzz and critical acclaim for a performance been this loud and this unanimous.

Timothée Chalamet

If you feel like Timothée Chalamet’s name is everywhere these days, that is because Timothée Chalamet’s name is everywhere these days. Starring in both Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, the 22-year old New York native has become the talk of Tinseltown. It is his role in Call Me By Your Name will earn Chalamet an Oscar nomination, and if it were not for Gary Oldman, he would be the favorite. As it stands, he is a close runner-up.

Chalamet already won a Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor, and received Golden Globe and SAG nominations for his turn as Elio in Call Me By Your Name. Olly Richards of Empire wrote that Chalamet “plays [Elio] as a person still forming, not scared by his feelings but surprised,” adding also that he makes the rest of the cast “look like they’re acting.” Is there a higher compliment for an actor?

Confidence that the young actor will receive his first Oscar nomination is justified, if you look at the current odds. Several sites have Chalamet listed right after Oldman, with odds as long as 8/1.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis at a Jaguar Mille Miglia event in 2013. (Photo: Jaguar Mena (flickr) [CC License])

Daniel Day-Lewis claims that he did not know his role in Phantom Thread would be his final performance during filming; regardless, the industry giant’s swan song is a delightful one, and will very likely land him his sixth Oscar nomination. Phantom Thread is a character study through and through, though it is uncertain whether that character is Reynolds Woodcock or Daniel Day-Lewis, himself. Who better to play an obsessive artist fixated on his craft than, well, an obsessive artist fixated on his craft? Day-Lewis’ performance is nuanced and seductive, captivating in its minutia. He is, to say it plainly, a rarefied actor at his best.

Will DDL’s bittersweet performance in Phantom Thread be enough to secure him an Academy Award? At the moment, the odds don’t look great for a win. He is coming in as the fourth choice almost across the board — with odds ranging from 12/1 to 16/1. Most books have James Franco ahead of him. Our experts disagree completely that Franco should have shorter odds, though do agree that DDL’s swan song is not likely to end on a victorious note.

Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya’s performance in Jordan Peele’s psycho-social thriller Get Out already earned him a Golden Globe nomination, which was, in the actor’s own words, “against innumerable odds.” While the Londoner has a point — he was nominated alongside of some true titans — he deserves all the accolades he is currently receiving.

Get Out was not, initially, an obvious Oscar contender. It was released nearly a year ago (February 2017) and is categorized as a satirical horror film — not a genre that typically earns Academy Award nods. Yet, here we are, nearly a year later, in the midst of award season, and we are all still talking about it. Why? Perhaps because Get Out absolutely smashed at the box office (grossing more than $250 million worldwide); perhaps because it earned a score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes; perhaps because it is an entirely new type of story, and it was told through masterful direction and sublime performance; or perhaps — and most likely — a perfect combination of all those factors.

Kaluuya, specifically, shone in his break-out performance as Chris Washington, a young man in an interracial relationship meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, over an increasingly disturbing weekend. It was emotionally charged, gentle, and fierce all at once. Thanks to continued press and his Golden Globe nomination, Kaluuya’s odds have been getting shorter over the past month. A nomination is absolutely deserved, but a win is a long-shot in this year’s race.

James Franco

James Franco at the "Child of God" premiere.
James Franco at the Child of God premiere. (Photo: Alice Barigelli (flickr [CC License]))

When we first heard that James Franco had plans to make a film based off the “worst movie ever,” we had our doubts. Not in Franco’s ability as an actor, per se, but in the broader scope of the idea, assuming that The Disaster Artist would follow in the footsteps of other Franco-Seth Rogen produced films, such as Pineapple Express. In other words, it might be good for a few cheap laughs, but not a whole lot else.

As happens on occasion, we were wrong. Franco, Rogen, and the rest of the team behind The Disaster Artist were able to take a fascinating story and actually tell it well — not just make fun of it. Moreover, the film gave Franco the opportunity to do what he does best: immerse himself completely in a character, in this case channelling the now-infamous Tommy Wiseau.

There has been a significant amount of pushback following Franco’s Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical. As he accepted the award, a “TimesUp” pin attached firmly to his lapel, allegations began to roll out across social-media platforms; women who had worked with Franco and been in various forms of relationship with the actor started calling out the apparent hypocrisy of the moment. Though, it is certainly not the most important question that these reports raise, it does cause one to wonder whether his shot at an Oscar is over.

According to some sources, certain Academy members have already inquired whether or not they can take their votes back. Whether or not this is true, who knows, but is it that unbelievable? Franco is still only marginally behind Timothée Chalamet in his odds to win (12/1, compared to 6/1), but those odds are far too short. The Academy has been through this before, with Casey Affleck’s win for Manchester by the Sea, and it won’t readily repeat history, not in the current zeitgeist.

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