Oscar Predictions: Best Actor and Actress

The announcement of SAG and Golden Globe nominations has given this year’s Oscar race a shake up. Movies that seemed guaranteed to be nominated were shut out while some smaller indie films released earlier this year got some unexpected love. While the Golden Globe’s Hollywood Foreign Press Association has little overlap with the Academy, actors make up the largest portion of the Academy making the Screen Actor’s Guild a more reliable predictor of who ends up with an Oscar. This week I’ll be focusing on the categories that will be most affected by these announcements, Best Actor and Best Actress.


Best Actor:

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Denzel Washington – Fences

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge


After picking up the best actor award at the Critic’s Choice Awards and the Gotham Awards, Casey Affleck is the current front runner for his role as a man looking after his nephew after his brother’s death in Manchester by the Sea. The only clear thing that could prevent his win are sexual assault allegations that were brought against him by two female co-workers during the shooting of the Joaquin Phoenix documentary, I’m Still Here. Both cases were settled out of court, but if the fate of The Birth of a Nation’s Nate Parker is any indication, Hollywood takes these matters much less lightly than they used to. What is more likely is that Affleck’s established fame, and close relationships with his even more famous brother Ben and friend and producer of the film Matt Damon, will protect him from these claims gaining any real traction. If these accusations deter the Academy or they are just underwhelmed by Affleck’s understated and mostly silent performance, I would not be surprised if they went in the opposite direction and awarded Washington for his role as a father and trash collector with failed dreams in the 50’s in Fences. Fences gives Washington more lines in fifteen minutes than Affleck has in all of Manchester by the Sea and the Academy tends to be drawn to these kind of big moments that are easily played in a best-of-the-year montage. Gosling will surely be nominated for his role as the jazz player Sebastian in the musical La La Land, however his performance has been overlooked this season, surprising given that Gosling learned to play intricate piano pieces and danced for the film. Garfield has been nominated for a SAG and a Globe for his role as a pacifist soldier in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and the Academy will likely follow suit. This is a bit of a surprise given Gibson’s divisive nature in Hollywood and the fact that Garfield has another performance in the more universally beloved Martin Scorsese’s film Silence. That film, about Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan, has been said to be a tough watch and has been almost totally shut out of the awards race thus far. The real surprise here is Mortensen. Captain Fantastic was released earlier this summer and is about an off the grid family that has to reintegrate into society. It is a much lighter film that typical Academy fare, but Mortensen has scored nominations with the Globes and the SAGs which means Oscar is probably not far behind. However, I would not be surprised if the Academy went with a more conventional, prestige pick like Joel Edgerton in Loving or Tom Hanks in Sully.


Best Actress:

Emma Stone – La La Land

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Annette Bening – 20th Century Women

Amy Adams – Arrival

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins


This category seems to be a race between Stone and Portman. Stone is always charming and never more so than in her role as an actress looking for her big break in La La Land.  Portman on the other hand nails Jackie Kennedy’s accent and dignity in Jackie where she carries virtually every scene. Portman has taken home more awards at this point than Stone and I would look to the winner of the Globe and especially the SAG award to clinch it. I wouldn’t count out Annette Bening in 20th Century Women as a single mother raising her son in California in the 70’s. Bening is a member of the Academy’s Board of Governors and with four previous nominations and zero wins, she could be seen as due. Adams and Streep are both arguably the most respected actresses of their respective generations and their nominations for smaller films, Arrival and Florence Foster Jenkins, would reflect that. They both landed nominations at the Globes and SAGs so I would expect to see this at the Oscars. I wouldn’t count out Ruth Negga of Loving just yet. She could snag one of those two less guaranteed spots for her subtle and dignified performance as Mildred Loving if that film is received more warmly by the Academy than it has from awards associations thus far.


Check back next week when I’ll be looking at the Best Director category.


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Chandler Ferrebee is an aspiring filmmaker and program support intern at Light House Studio.

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