By John H. Foote

In a week that has seen Christian Bale and Clint Eastwood shake up the race for Best Actor, Rami Malek joins the race for his performance as rocker Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of the rock band Queen.

One week ago the major contenders for Best Actor were Viggo Mortensen in Green Book, Ryan Gosling in First Man, Robert Redford in The Old Man and the Gun, Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born and the relatively unseen Willem Dafoe in At Eternity’s Gate. Those lucky few who have seen Dafoe as Van Gogh, say the sixty-three-year-old actor surpasses all his careers work as the tortured artist. But now those five have some serious competition.

Eastwood is much more beloved by the Academy than Redford, with two Oscars for Best Director, two for Best Picture (producer), two other nominations for Best Director, and two nominations for Best Actor. There is a thinking he was robbed of a nomination for Best Actor for Gran Torino (2008) (he was), and it could be seen as a makeup nomination for The Mule, which he also directed. To be clear, anytime Eastwood makes a film, it needs to be taken seriously as a major work. Yes, he has made some weak movies, but they are few and far between. The trailer suggests a great performance from the nearly ninety-year-old actor.

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Vice in two minutes of a trailer stunned anyone who saw it. He is not just portraying Cheney, he is inhabiting the character, he is Cheney. But now we have to be used to Bale being astonishing in anything, but here he goes a step further. I doubt they can ignore him for this one.

And now we have Malek as Mercury.

Gripers stated the obvious, he was smaller than Mercury, shorter, but he inhabited the role with a ferocity rarely seen by young actors. For all intent and purpose for two hours, he was Mercury. Mercury had a startling presence onstage, and I think Malek recreated that to perfection. Yes, it is Mercury doing the singing, who could possibly mimic his voice? That Malek performs and appears to be singing, capturing the essence of what Mercury was, is exceptional. Often lip synching is more difficult than actually singing!

Should Malek, Bale, and Eastwood join the race, who gets bumped? Redford for sure, because he is a minor performance and he has been better before. Gosling internalizes his performance, which the Academy often misses, but I think his film First Man soars into the heavens and he will be included, leaving Dafoe as the odd man out. If they snub Malek, and they might count on Dafoe getting in.

But at this point, Mortensen appears the winner, and that is OK with me, he was terrific.

Going to be a helluva race.

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