By John H. Foote
Just a little more than a month after TIFF, Viggo Mortensen remains the frontrunner for Best Actor for his sublime work as Tony in Green Book. Mortensen, nominated twice previously for Eastern Promises (2007) and Captain Fantastic (2016) is a much-admired actor in the business, and many could see this as his time. It helps that the performance is terrific, at this writing the best I have seen in this category this year.
Bradley Cooper has lost no steam and in fact seems to be gaining momentum for his fine work in A Star is Born, as rocker Jackson Maine, heading into a downward spiral. Cooper directed the film as well, brilliantly, and will no doubt be a Best Director nominee. Only Laurence Olivier and Roberto Begnini have won Oscars after directing themselves in a film meaning Cooper would become the first to deserve it.
Though no one has seen the film yet, no one is disputing Christian Bale’s nomination as Dick Cheney in Vice. Another complete transformation, Bale looks uncanny in the trailer, but a trailer does not a film make. If he as good throughout the film as he is in the trailer, count on him in the race, and he could upset.
Ryan Gosling seems a lock for his work as Neil Armstrong in First Man, though the fact he internalizes so much of the character could actually work against him. The Academy tends to honour performances they can feel, that see the actor emote, and Gosling makes it hard to get close to the character with his internalization. That said, if you know the least bit about Armstrong, he is perfect.
The early reviews for Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody are glowing, and the young actor portraying Freddie Mercury will be hard to ignore. Critics out of LA are saying the last third of the film is astonishing with Malek becoming Mercury.
Ethan Hawke has been quietly gaining ground for his career-best work in First Reformed, a Paul Schrader film which earned rave reviews when released back in May. The film will need the support of the film critics groups and the Screen Actors Guild for Hawke to make the final five, but the performance is certainly good enough to be there among the nominees. Nice to see a small film being recognized and talked about.
Veterans Clint Eastwood and Willem Dafoe could break into the race for their work in upcoming films. Dafoe portrays troubled artist Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, while Eastwood, nearly ninety is directing himself in The Mule portraying a real-life ninety-year-old drug mule for a Mexican cartel. There were many disappointed that Dafoe lost the Oscar last year for The Florida Project, and may look to this as a chance to make up for that, while Eastwood, beloved by the Academy has never won a Best Actor award and they might see this as their last chance.
Robert Redford also offers them a chance for sentimental awarding in The Old Man & the Gun. Though it is a sweet-natured, fine piece of acting, I just cannot see it happening.
The same is true for Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington in BlackkKlansman (correct spelling), though I think if the Academy honours that film it will be through the director, Spike Lee.
There is growing awareness for John C. Reilly as screen great Oliver Hardy in Stan and Ollie, but will the film find an audience? Are today’s audiences at all interested in film greats before 1970?
And finally, Hugh Jackman in The Front Runner has impressed some critics, not this one as Senator Gary Hart. Disgraced shortly before a Presidential run, Jackman is ordinary (I think) in the film, which he is as an actor too I believe.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.