By John H. Foote

At this writing, these are the contenders who appear headed for the Oscar race. Count on some dropping off the list after TIFF, count on others being added after New York. I expect the nominees to be a mix of previous nominees with a couple of newcomers.

Robert De Niro in The Irishman

Reunited with Scorsese for perhaps one last roar, De Niro has been coasting for years though he displayed glimpses of that danger in American Hustle (2013). As a contract killer for the mob, this puts him back on familiar ground where he always shone. The de-aging software will make or break his performance, and the film, but remember, a seventy-plus actor is asked to play a character physically as a man thirty years his junior.

Taron Edgerton in ROCKETMAN

An extraordinary performance as rocker Elton John that incredibly, though vastly superior to Oscar Winner Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), could be a victim to the Academy thinking, “been there, done that”. Shame on them if they pull that garbage, Edgerton rocked and deserves a nomination. Hell, this could be the performance of the year.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Though Brad Pitt got the lion’s share of raves, DiCaprio was far too great as a washed-up TV star trying to be a movie star. His Rick Dalton was an exceptional study in arrogance, desperation, sadness, hope and sadly awareness. His scene with that precocious little girl should get him a nod, brilliant.

Adam Driver in Marriage Story

Driver is among the busiest and most exciting emerging actors in movies. With Brando like gifts, he inhabits each character beautifully, bringing a purity and pristine beauty to each role. His work here should land him in the big race for the first time, the first of many for Best Actor.

Daniel Kayuula in Queen and Slim

A nominee two years ago, he should have been a nominee last year in Widows (2018) and could be this year in this film. When a first date goes horribly wrong and a cop is murdered, two young lovers go into hiding, one step of the law as they race across America. This guy is the real deal.

Will Smith in Gemini Man

Though the film is a science fiction actioner, the fact it is directed by Ang Lee elevates it to an art blockbuster. Smith, a genuinely great actor plays two versions of the same character, one older, the other young, each out to kill the other. The trailer suggests greatness.

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Despite brilliant work in Road to Perdition (2002), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Captain Phillips (2013), Saving Mr. Banks (2013) and Bridge of Spies (2015) he has not earned so much of a nomination since 2000. Due? You betcha. As TV icon Mr. Rogers he appears to nail the character in the trailer. We will see.

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

Arguably deserving of Best Actor in The Nutty Professor (1996) and Supporting Actor in Dreamgirls (2006), this might, a HUGE might, could be his year. As a comic who steps into the role of an iconic New York pimp, this should be a showcase for his substantial gifts.,

Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse

Yes, I am serious, Pattinson has turned his career around, is no longer a joke, and is a bold, daring actor. Here he goes toe to toe with one of the best, supporting actor candidate Willem Dafoe. Pattinson reaches deep as the younger man bullied and harassed by the old sea dog Dafoe portrays.

(2 Actors) — Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford vs. Ferrari

Two great actors, a terrific script drawn from a great story, and you have the makings of two fine performances. Bale is among the finest actors to have lived while Damon when in his element is outstanding. Will they both go lead? They belong there.

Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

As a cop with Tourette’s syndrome, in a film he directed, Norton is Oscar bait. One of the most extraordinary actors of this generation, any time he is on screen he is in the race. Count on this to be nothing but exciting, intelligent filmmaking, with exceptional performances.

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