2017 Oscars: Best Actor

So it’s that time again – when I blow up your social media feeds with a flurry of Oscar posts that talk about films that most of you haven’t heard of. I’ll do this right up until Oscar night, then take the entire month of March off because, let’s face it, after 350 blog posts over the years, it’s hard for even me to come up with a well-thought out opinion 52 times a year (however, half-baked ones are in long supply).

Usually I ease into this, but hell, let’s start big: Actor in a Leading Role.

NOMINEES
CASEY AFFLECK – Manchester by the Sea
ANDREW GARFIELD – Hacksaw Ridge
RYAN GOSLING – La La Land
VIGGO MORTENSEN – Captain Fantastic
DENZEL WASHINGTON – Fences

Who will win: Casey Affleck
Who could win: Denzel Washington
Who should win: Casey Affleck
Who should be here: Chris Pine

For a guy who basically uses his blog to do a lot of bitching, I don’t have a lot to complain about here. All five performances were great, all five nominees deserving.

I chose Chris Pine as the one who should be here, not necessarily because I think he’s more deserving than any of the five nominees, but because he’s the one with the breakout performance of those who were in the conversation. Pine’s given us fun stuff over the years, Captain Kirk in Star Trek being the most famous, but lately he’s taken to the indie circuit and has been developing his acting chops.

He was great in last year’s criminally under-rated Z for Zachariah, but his turn as Toby Howard in Hell or High Water deserves to win something. His role was the least showy of the three leads, but his quiet determination and calm, smoldering presence made the film work.

Okay, enough about the guy who isn’t here, let’s talk about the five who are.

In my view, it’s 6-5 and pick ‘em between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington. Affleck the Younger has been the odds-on favorite for the statue for months now, but he has a several years old sexual harassment settlement hanging around his neck. In a year when an African-American Oscar contender got knocked out entirely for a rape charge (Nate Parker), this is causing some issues for Casey Affleck.

This notwithstanding, Denzel Washington’s performance is every bit as good as Affleck’s, and they were both amazing, and the only reason I bring up the latter’s legal issues is that any little thing could sway this one way or the other. Washington took home the SAG award last night in an upset, while Affleck has a litany of awards.

The two performances couldn’t be more different. Washington’s Troy Maxson is larger than life, owning every room he steps into or upset because he can’t. Affleck’s Lee Chandler is quiet, and really just wants to crawl into a hole and be left alone. Troy is disapointed in life and wants to convey it to everyone he meets, while Lee still hasn’t gotten over the most devastating moment that can occur to a human being. Both are a three dimensional as they come, and both jump off the screen.

In a weaker year, Andrew Garfield’s Desmond Doss would have a great chance. His mix of optimism and determination makes the character work, when a lesser actor might have made Doss look like a Disney character. Viggo Mortensen and Ryan Gossling could both be in the mix in such a weaker year, and really if any of the five were to win, I’d be satisfied. But I still think it’s Affleck’s time.