2016 Oscar Prediction: Best Actor

We’re coming down the home stretch. Just a few days until the awards. While this group of actors is a talented bunch I think the Academy had a slight miss.

Joel Edgerton or Jake Gyllenhaal should be in this group in place of Viggo Mortensen. But otherwise I have no complaints about these very worthy performances.

casey-affleck-manchester-by-the-sea-2Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

It’s all churning just under the surface for Lee Chandler. Guilt and remorse destroyed his marriage and when he moved to Boston he’d thought he’d left it all behind. His older brother’s death thrusts him back to his home town of Manchester by the Sea and everything and everyone he was trying to escape. Casey Affleck puts every last bit of conflict on screen with seemingly endless layers and a complete humanity.

andrew-garfield-hacksaw-ridge-2Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

I can certainly understand many of the principles by which Desmond Doss lives his life. And his commitment to live by them is remarkable. It would have been easy for Andrew Garfield to play this very one-dimensionally but instead he shows Doss as a man of more than just his principles which makes his principles all the more impacting. He personifies his struggle and when we finally see his heroics they are made all the more meaningful because Garfield first made us understand the man.

emma stone and ryan gosling ‘La La Land" credit: LionsgateRyan Gosling, La La Land

Hey girl. Ryan Gosling is up for another Oscar. But don’t for a moment think he’s just the beneficiary of La La Land mania. His portrayal of Sebastian Wilder, a struggling jazz musician in Los Angeles is more than just singing, dancing and ridiculously impressive piano playing. He embodies the soul of the purist trying to find a way to survive in a modern world that easily jettisons the past. His on-screen chemistry with Emma Stone is the old school Hollywood magic which makes sense because this film is a brilliant homage to the films of yesteryear. Ryan is stepping into the dancing shoes of some of the legends of the silver screen. He’s Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly and Clark Gable all rolled into one and he pulls it off marvelously.

viggo-mortenses-captain-fantastic-2Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortensen’s Ben Cash is the father of six who all live together in a remote forest of Washington state. Vehemently opposed to American life (especially capitalism) he and his late wife chose to raise their children as wilderness survivalists/socialist philosophers, especially evident in their disdain for Christians. When Ben reminds his children that they’re not to make fun of anyone, one child corrects him, “We make fun of Christians.” He readily acknowledges she’s correct almost as if he’d just forgotten for a moment. This is a key conflict in the story as Ben clashes with his late wife’s parents following her death. Like Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, Ben Cash isn’t a hero you can root for. He’s an unsympathetic character unless you subscribe to his philosophies. Any character in the film who disagrees is shown as a buffoon or a crazed zealot so the film gives the character no opportunity for complexity. It’s lazy film making. While Mortensen is a fine actor this isn’t an Oscar caliber performance.

denzel-washington-fences-1Denzel Washington, Fences

Denzel demonstrates the kind of comfort in a role that only comes from playing it on Broadway 8 shows a week for months (for which he won a Tony).  As usual he is a dynamic, commanding presence as Troy Maxson a 50-something former baseball player. Set in the 1950s, Troy’s heyday in the Negro league is far behind him as he now lives a life of regret, striving for a spark to make him feel alive again. Although we’ve seen Denzel like this before it’s still great to watch. He is a master of his craft and in Fences he shows us again why he’s one of the great American actors in film history.

SELBY PICK: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

PREDICTION: Denzel Washington, Fences

This comes down to two opposite ends of the acting dynamic spectrum. Casey’s performance is subtle with buried emotions occasionally boiling to the surface. Denzel is constantly larger than life, bursting with joy, rage and passion. I think the Academy will hand Denzel his third Oscar of his brilliant career.

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