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The Best Actor Oscar Race: Who Will Be Nominated?

With Oscar nominations right around the corner, CinemaBlend is taking a look at which films and performances are likely to be in contention for nominations. Let’s look at a the Lead Actor race. 

Locked In

Benedict Cumberbatch's deeply layered, tortured performance in The Power of the Dog is earning him the best reviews of his career. His film is also one of the biggest all-around contenders of the year, making him an absolute lock that you could rest easy betting your house on.

With a Golden Globe win under his belt for King Richard, Will Smith stands as a top contender in the category. His portrayal of Richard Williams is charming, funny, and heartfelt. It’s the kind of transformative leading role from an A list star that the Oscars can’t possibly pass up on.

Also carrying an emotionally heavy biopic is Andrew Garfield who will easily sing his way to a nomination for his portrayal of musical-theatre icon Jonathan Larsen in Tick, tick… Boom! His energetic, endearing performance is winning over critics and audiences alike, and it doesn’t hurt that Garfield is having an incredible year with appearances in The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Spider-Man: No Way Home

Denzel Washington is eyeing his 9th acting nomination for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Though the film is iffy as a Best Picture candidate, Washington’s towering performance will be impossible to ignore, especially since he’s an Academy favorite. 

Likely Bets

The four aforementioned actors were all nominated at SAG, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice, meaning there may only be one slot up for grabs. Javier Bardem’s performance as Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos. Despite controversy over his casting and having been largely ignored by critics groups, the actor secured a couple major industry award nominations at the Golden Globe and SAG awards. This makes the three-time nominee a strong candidate for the fifth slot. 

Peter Dinklage took a hit when he missed the SAG nomination, despite being a winner and previous nominee for Game of Thrones and The Station Agent, respectively. The film’s momentum has died a bit, with the studio delaying the release until after nominations. But Dinklage is a well respected actor, and many may feel it’s his time. This category hasn’t seen a lineup without a first-time nominee in 41 years, and Dinklage could keep that stat going.

Dark Horses

The past three Leonardo DiCaprio films nominated for best picture were coupled with a lead actor nomination for the actor. Don’t Look Up might break this streak, as it has failed to gain traction for any of its individual cast members at precursors. We can’t overlook the possibility of a surprise, but if Leo couldn’t get a SAG nomination, I don’t see how he can get the Oscar nomination.

I don’t see anyone else as having much of a chance, but perhaps Nicolas Cage in Pig, or Mahershala Ali in Swan Song could pull off a surprise.

Check back here at CinemaBlend for more category breakdowns including Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.