Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The 89th Academy Awards, Best Actor
The front runner was Casey Affleck, for his role as a lonely man stuck into a horrible situation in Manchester by the Sea. Affleck won most of the precursors, including the Golden Globe. But along came two-time winner Denzel Washington for is self-directed performance in Fences. Washington won the SAG Award, which has correctly predicted the last 12 Oscar-winning Best Actors. Affleck won the BAFTA, but Washington was not nominated.
Perhaps foolishly, I still give Affleck the edge. Some think his being accused of sexual harassment has cost him the lead, but I don't know. I'm always reluctant to buy into these sorts of things. The artist should be separated from the art--Picasso was a horrible human being, but people still go look at his paintings--but there are limits. If a person gave a great performance but then went on a shooting spree at a school it is doubtful he would be nominated, let alone win. But if at all possible, personal things like this should be left out of it.
Affleck certainly deserves the award. I think Denzel Washington was terrific in Fences, but this is one of those "most acting" awards. Washington does just above everything in the movie, while Affleck acts by omission. If Washington wins, he would be only the fourth actor, after Walter Brennan, Jack Nicholson, and Daniel-Day Lewis, to win three Oscars. He would also be the third to direct himself to an Oscar, following Laurence Olivier and Roberto Benigni. One note on the SAG award--Washington had never won one before, so it may have been catch-up time for them, certainly not for the Academy.
As for the other three, it's wait 'til next year. Ryan Gosling might have stood a chance in a complete La La Land sweep, and showing off his dancing chops might have impressed some, but he's on the outside looking in behind these two. Andrew Garfield, as the pacifist medic in Hacksaw Ridge, was nominated for the wrong role. He should have been nominated for Silence, instead of this Gomer Pyle impersonation.
Finally, Viggo Mortensen is nominated as Earth-dad in Captain Fantastic. It's a well done role, but it's the film's only nomination, and in Best Actor category it's a rarity for an actor to win in such circumstances.
Will win: Affleck
Could win: Washington
Should win: Affleck
Should have been nominated: Joel Edgerton, Loving