2018 Oscars: Lead Actor

Okay it’s February, which means it’s time to talk Oscars. The winter Olympics gives us an extra week this year, so my annual Oscar coverage will be coming to you Mondays and Thursdays from now until the big day on March 4. Then it’ll be time to put the blog on vacation for a bit and write something else for a while.

Next up…

LEAD ACTOR – NOMINEES
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Who will win: Gary Oldman
Who could win: Gary Oldman
Who should win: Gary Olman
Who should be here: Hugh Jackman, “Logan”

There’s no real thing as a wire-to-wire race in the Oscars – partially because it’s so difficult to see the field six months out, and partially because, well, the actors don’t actually run against each other (though that’s a fantastic idea for a future reality/awards show).

But if there was, Gary Oldman would be the guy who did it, at least once he lifts that gold statue in two weeks.

Oldman has won virtually every award leading up to Oscar night for his turn as hero Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. If you haven’t seen the film, do yourself a favor. Find a picture of Gary Oldman, then find a still shot of him as Churchill from the film.

Go ahead and look, I’ll wait.

See what I mean?

Not only did Oldman completely transform himself for the part, but he just brought it in every scene, so embodying Churchill that it was completely impossible to even see Oldman behind the character even if you tried.

So amazing is Oldman’s performance that there’s virtually no talk for Daniel Day-Lewis having a chance to take home an Oscar for what’s ostensibly his last performance. Day-Lewis is looking for his fourth Oscar on his eighth nomination for his turn as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread. His performance therein was so nuanced, so detailed, so well thought out at every turn that in most years, he’d not only be in competition but holding the inside track.

If anyone has a shot at taking out Oldman, it’s the youngest lead actor nominee in Oscar history. Call Me By Your Name lead Timothée Chalamet is enjoying a breakout year of sorts, with prominent roles in not one but two Best Picture nominees (Lady Bird is the other), and a third in one that may have just missed the cut (Hostiles). Call Me By Your Name is a rare film that completely lived in the performances of its characters. Subtle facial expressions and reactions made the story of this one, much more so than character arcs or plot development.

If you’re looking for character development, the offbeat Roman J. Israel Esq is definetely your jam. As someone on Twitter put it, the story of the film is merely a delivery system for character development. The story is virtually non-existent, but Washington has never been better. Rounding out the field is Kaluuya, another 2017 breakout for Get Out, the little film that became a pop-culture sensation.

Not to sound like a broken record, but where the hell is Hugh Jackman? Academy, I know he played a superhero who rips peoples’ faces off with his claws and is like 200 years old, but come on. His performance as Logan is as well thought out, as subtle, as heartbreaking as many of the great performances in history, and at the very LEAST, he belongs on this list.