2019 Oscars: Leading Actor

Previously, in Jack’s 2019 Oscar coverage…

January 28 – Best Picture
January 31 – Editing
February 4 – Supporting Actress


February 11 – Supporting Actor
February 14 – Leading Actress
February 18 – Director
February 19 – Original Screenplay
February 20 – Adapted Screenplay
February 21 – Cinematography
February 24 – Final Predictions on Oscar Night

Today…Leading Actor

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Christian Bale, Vice
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Who will win: Christian Bale, Vice
Who could win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Who should win: Christian Bale, Vice (but barely)
Who should be here: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate” is one of the best performances of the decade. Despite playing a man almost 30 years younger than himself, Dafoe completely disappears into the role. It’s a quiet film which mainly runs on visual cues – facial expressions, body language and so on – and Dafoe is so perfect that it makes you wonder how he did his research and preparation. He should definitely win a gold statue this coming year…


Dick Cheney comes in to fuck it all up (how apropos), this time in the form of Christian Bale, who probably has the most transformative on-screen role since Jamie Foxx in Ray. Bale is a chameleon when it comes to acting; try seeing Bruce Wayne or Patrick Bateman in his Cheney. On top of putting on 70ish pounds for the role, Bale managed to capture Cheney’s voice, mannerisms and posture all so closely that I wonder if he could have gotten away with a real-life “Dave” situation. Of course, he may have Satan to thank for his acting prowess.

Nipping at his heals is Rami Malek, whose turn as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody elevated the film far above its paper-thin, superficial script. By historical standards, Malek is ahead of Bale at press time, having captured the SAG award for top lead actor. Almost always, the SAG award winner goes on to take home the gold statue, with few exceptions. Most recently, Casey Affleck lost the SAG but took home the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice before going on to win the Oscar. We’ll see how this race stacks up in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of great performances by actors playing singers in average films, Bradley Cooper spent 18 months taking intensive singing lessons to take on his role in A Star is Born. So much so that Cooper now performs live, often with Lady Gaga. More on her in a later post, but it was really their chemistry together that made that film work, very similar to Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book. Mortensen once again put his full range of talents on display, delivering another top-notch performance in a great film.

Finally, while all five men certainly deserve to be here, it’s too bad that Ethan Hawke missed the cut for his role as a priest going through a mental breakdown in First Reformed. Without the nomination, that film (available on Amazon Prime) won’t get a lot of eyeballs, and though it’s not a crowd pleaser by any means, it deserves better. Very much a 21st century, quieter version of Taxi Driver.