The 2018 NTW Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

By Kate Pehrson and Liv Tollefson

Welcome to the Next Ten Words Academy Awards Predictions for 2018. In a four part series, longtime Twin Cities movie writers and enthusiasts Kate Pehrson and Liv Tollefson will look at the four major Academy Award Categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. Today we offer Part 2, Best Actor. The 2018 Academy Nominees for Best Actor are Gary Oldman, Timothée Chalamet, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Kaluuya, and Denzel Washington.

 

Who will win?

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour

With a transformative portrayal of a larger-than-life – no – massively oversized historical figure, Gary Oldman gives us a superb performance. Known for being a superlative, expressive and intense actor, Oldman shows us a new and masterful take on one of the most well-known personalities of the 20th century. Played by numerous great actors before him, Oldman rises above the role, and takes all of us up along with him.

For a small, slight man, Oldman was almost unrecognizable as Churchill. Amazing prosthetic makeup can do a lot to capture the outward appearance of a person, but it is up to the actor to capture the gait, the talk, the mannerisms, the posture, and the personality. Oldman shows us the rough edges, the gruffness, the prickliness, and the biting wit of a man who was a burr in the side of many. He also shows us the intimidating intelligence, the deep convictions and passionate patriotism, and broadness of shoulder that allowed Churchill to be the man his country needed him to be. And finally, we also see the tenderness, gentle humor, and sweetness that allowed his family and friends to support him, and his countrymen and King to rally round him.

In a genre where so many amazing actors have portrayed Winston Churchill, Oldman channels the man and the myth, giving the audience the gift of feeling like we met the old man himself, and would keep calm and carry on if for no one but him.

 

Who Might Win?

Timothée Chalamet as Elio Perlman, Call Me by Your Name

The American actor Timothée Chalamet, gives a lovely, honest, and tender portrayal of a young man falling in love. A deeply personal and internal character, it’s the little moments that give us insight into the intensity of Elio Perlman’s emotions. Much like the portrayal of Lady Bird, a girl of similar age, 17-yr-old Elio is on the verge of breaking free from childhood. However, Elio’s ennui comes from living a somewhat privileged life as the only child of intellectuals, who spend summers in Italy lunching, smoking, reading, and biking into town.

Chalamet shows us in small but pointed moments the lengths to which Elio will – has to – go to quench his desire for emotional connection. Young Elio may be nervous, but there is also a bit of swagger, and his physical urges cannot be denied, either. The emptiness, sadness, and loneliness of an introverted young man is juxtaposed with moments of confidence, exuberance, and joy. Chalamet shows us a character through a gradual exploration of feelings and sexuality. Nothing is ever fully said – only hinted at, but things are so fully felt and thoroughly translated to the screen.

With his slight, muscled but not fully developed frame, expressive brown eyes and voice, Chalamet delivers a performance that deftly captures that short, adolescent, intense, life-changing secret romance that some are lucky enough to have and never want to forget. A young but experienced actor with roles in two Best Picture nominees, Timothée Chalamet gave us one of our personal favorite roles of the year.

 

What about the Others?

Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread

Like Meryl Streep, there is just a different, higher bar setting for Daniel Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis’ 6th nomination is given this year for his portrayal of a haute couture clothing designer in post-war London. Reynolds Woodcock (a name created by Day-Lewis himself) is gifted, hardworking, regimented, introverted, driven and arrogant. Adored, admired and envied, girls fall in love with his clothing, and women desire his hands to dress them exclusively.

Woodcock is not a likeable character. He lives a life that not many of us have access to – a life that includes a country house, a clientele of duchesses, princesses, and wealthy heiresses – the life of the elite and tasteful. But, in the hands of Day-Lewis, we also see glimpses into the things that define this character – the loss, the loneliness, the unique demands that the gift of artistic talent and drive can place on a person. An intense actor, Daniel Day-Lewis portrays a different, quiet, intensity with moments of great delicacy and lightness of touch.

Day Lewis has said that he is retiring from acting, and that this is his “final role”. While not with the bang that may be desired by some as they leave their area of work, this is a beautiful character, crafted and elegant. A lovely tribute to art and the artist.

 

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out

A breakout role for Daniel Kaluuya, he plays the pivotal role in a horror film that also is a pointed, fresh satirical commentary on American racial relations. As Chris, black boyfriend to privileged white girl Rose, Kaluuya shows us the classic boyfriend ready to meet the parents: nervous but compliant, amenable to his girlfriend’s subtle cues and suggestions, on guard but willing.

An English actor with just a few credits to his name before Get Out, Kaluuya brought a fresh face and subtle objectivity to this role. Taking place on a weekend away in a secluded area on a large property, the character of Chris Washington navigates a journey where paranoia turns to reality, and manners and politeness turn to madness and desperation. In a portrayal that required a range of ability to project emotion and physical response, Kaluuya’s performance held fast, the eye in the center of a raging storm of metaphors and terrors.

The director Jordan Peele said that Kaluuya landed the role when during his audition – a scene that is a critical point in the film – he was able to faithfully and repeatedly cause a tear to fall from his eye at the exact same moment. When you see it – and you absolutely should – you’ll know it. And you’ll also know why Peele had to cast the part right then and there.

 

Denzel Washington as Roman J. Israel in Roman J. Israel, Esq.

An actor who has attained, in spirit if not in fact, the coveted “first name fame” level of achievement, Denzel Washington delivers a performance unique in his repertoire of characters. Playing Roman J. Israel, Washington takes on the role of a California lawyer who reaches a critical turning point. A “nutty professor” of sorts, who works behind the scenes in a law office where time seems stuck, Israel is a character who is a bit of a savant. Israel not only knows the California law codes by heart, but glimpses into his home, his habits, and his interactions with others suggests that this is a man on the autism spectrum. Though never explicitly explored, the implication gives the viewer a key insight into what plays out.

Denzel Washington is known for his intensity on screen, playing characters of singular intelligence, power, or charisma, and usually in full control. Roman Israel is a departure from this, and allowed Washington to explore some quirkiness, humor and confusion we don’t often see from him. Israel is smart and opinionated to be sure, but in a world where much has changed since he’s had to interact with it in any meaningful way, his inability to fully grasp the consequences of his actions lets Washington explore new territory.

There is almost no scene in this movie where Israel isn’t smack-dab in the center, and generally only a star of this caliber can both land and handle such a script. As a quirky throwback of a man thrust into unfamiliar territory, Denzel Washington takes us through the character’s exploration of new people, feelings, opportunities and realizations with authenticity, humor and movie-star style.

 

 

 

Kate Pehrson and Liv Tollefson have been writing Academy Awards predictions together for five years and have been watching movies together for much longer than that. Kate’s musings can be found on Twitter at @K8Pehrson, while Liv is @broadwaybabee. Both may be contacted at info@nexttenwords.com

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