Although, like many of the films in these predictions, Marriage Story hasn’t yet been released in the UK (though it will debut on Netflix on 6th December) it has already received an extreme amount of buzz from critics, particularly for the lead performances. With Driver singled out as impressive in the film, and recent performances in Blackkklansman and The Report adding to his respectability as an actor, his nomination seems like a sure thing. To boot, the coincidence with The Rise of Skywalker will inevitably boost his mainstream appeal with fans and the box office, making Driver a safe winner.
A more obvious choice for Best Actor is Joaquin Phoenix for his performance as the titular character in Joker. While the film itself has remained controversial, Phoenix’s performance has been universally acclaimed as visceral and poignant. Like Driver with Star Wars, the conjoined popularity of the film, its box office success (passing $1 Billion dollars worldwide) and the fact that the film is based on a DC property will allow the Academy to reconcile its “artistic integrity” while also appealing to its own mainstream audience.
Speaking of comic book films, Robert De Niro for his role as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman – the film that Scorsese was promoting when infamously degrading the MCU films as a “theme park attraction” – which has recently debuted on Netflix after a limited theatrical release. De Niro isn’t new to the game, and while one could contend that he has had his moments in the sun, his performance as Frank is his own magnum opus and should get the attention it deserves during award season.
A summer release but one that’s lingered, Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood did in fact star Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave a rather charismatic performance, to say the least, as fading actor Rick Dalton. DiCaprio famously won in this category at the 88th Academy Awards for his performance in The Revenant. Though there’s certainly no rule saying that an individual cannot win more than one Oscar, DiCaprio’s performance in Hollywood is potentially only “good enough” to secure a nomination and the recency of his previous victory might deter another one so soon.
Rounding out the Best Actor category is none other than – you guessed it – Adam Sandler. Yes, that Adam Sandler. No, seriously. Flying under the radar in popular culture, Uncut Gems – directed by the Safdie Brothers (Good Time) – stars Sandler in what has been claimed to be the performance of his career. The dark horse of the category, Sandler could yet pull it off, but unfortunately his track record at the Gold Raspberries is likely to hold him back.
Admittedly nothing is certain, but Brad Pitt has been the favourite to win in the category for his incredible work in Hollywood and being the one person in the cast capable of winning their respective category. Other predictions include Joe Pesci for The Irishman, Sterling K. Brown for Waves and perhaps more controversially, Taika Waititi for his role as Hitler in JoJo Rabbit.