Premature Oscar Predictions: Actors

By now, you’ve had enough of Oscar season. Besieged by For Your Consideration ads and awards pundits who throw objectivity to the wind, you can only hear about Leonardo DiCaprio eating bison liver so many times before you either rip your hair out or say "screw it" and give in and buy a bison liver burger for lunch and then rent the “The Revenant” on Blu-Ray.

The last thing you want to hear is anything about the Academy Awards, #OscarsSoWhite, or who wore the worst dress on the red carpet. Well, we’ve got you covered. Actually, not really. We realize it’s "Too soon!" but it’s become an admittedly-ridiculous tradition around The Playlist to reveal our ludicrously early premature Oscar predictions. Think of it as a foolish self-immolation and purging of all things Oscar into the toilet so we don’t have to ever speak of the Academy Awards again (well, until when we have to again).

READ MORE: 2016 Oscars: The Best And Worst Of The 2016 Academy Awards

So duh, it’s way too early, but the spirit of our premature predictions are mostly in fun —if you can describe awards punditry in that fashion. Earlier this week, we predicted 2017 Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, and now, we’re finishing up with Best Actor.

2016 saw a rather less competitive Best Male Acting category than usual, with a slight lack of serious contenders beyond the actual nominees. And it didn’t help that DiCaprio had virtually sewn up his win as soon as anyone saw “The Revenant.” Things are much less certain at this early stage, obviously: will 2017 be the year that #OscarsSoWhite becomes unnecessary and allows a non-white winner for the first time in a decade? Take a look at our ten possibilities below, and let us know who you think might be in contention in the comments.

"Manchester By the Sea"
"Manchester By the Sea"

Casey Affleck - “Manchester By The Sea”
Andrew Dominik’s “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” feels so much like the kind of movie that should be overlooked by the Oscars that it’s easy to forget that Casey Affleck received his sole Oscar nod to date for the film, albeit in Best Supporting Actor for what was clearly a lead role. Multiple fine performances since have seen the picky actor fail to repeat that feat with the Academy, but he might have his best chance yet this year with Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester By The Sea.” Playing a troubled man who returns to his hometown after his brother’s death, the film seems in many respects to be a follow-up to Lonergan’s “You Can Count On Me,” and with rave reviews and promises of an Oscar push from Amazon, it’s not difficult to imagine Affleck getting an invite to the Dolby Theater.

Inside Llewyn Davis Oscar Isaac

Christian Bale or Oscar Isaac - “The Promise”
Right now, “The Promise,” from “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George, is a little under the radar, but we don’t expect that to last. Firstly, it’s a lavish period love triangle set against the Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, a subject matter rarely examined on film but is long overdue for the big-budget treatment. Secondly, it has a heavyweight cast, particularly when it comes to its two male leads Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, and we think either one could end up registering with the Academy. It’ll depend on which actor ends up campaigning for lead (assuming it’s picked up in time for an awards season release), but both are deserving: Bale earned his third nomination last year for “The Big Short” (having won for “The Fighter,” his first nod), while Isaac has never been recognized but is much more familiar to voters now after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and likely stands his best chance yet. Either could follow in the footsteps of George’s “Hotel Rwanda” star Don Cheadle for a nod.

Birdman
"Birdman"

Michael Keaton - “The Founder” 
Earlier this week, we included “The Founder,” John Lee Hancock’s biopic of Ray Kroc, the man who took McDonald’s worldwide and made it one of America’s most iconic corporations, in our Best Picture hopefuls, but the landscape has since changed. Having been originally set by The Weinstein Company for a prime November release, Harvey Weinstein moved it forward to August. Some would argue that it’s an attempt to put the movie in for a slot that has proved profitable for adult dramas like “Straight Outta Compton,” “The Butler” and “The Help.” But it’s worth noting that only one of those movies made much impact with the Academy. That said, while we’re more skeptical than we were (TWC tend to give its biggest prospect a Thanksgiving opening), we still wouldn’t count the film out yet, and particularly the lead turn by Michael Keaton. The actor was in the last two Best Picture winners but didn’t win for “Birdman” and wasn’t nominated for “Spotlight” —a feeling that he’s due might well help push him in even if the movie has faded as a whole by awards time. 

The Man Who Knew Infinity

Dev Patel - “Lion” 
When “The Founder” got moved up by the Weinstein Company to August, the film to benefit was “Lion,” which will now open in the same November Thanksgiving slot that Harvey Weinstein found so useful for “The Imitation Game,” “Philomena,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.” That’s an impressive run, and it means that all eyes are now on this film by Garth Davis (Jane Campion’s co-director on “Top Of The Lake”), and its star Dev Patel. Patel, who wasn’t even nominated for Oscar juggernaut “Slumdog Millionaire,” will play a young Indian boy who has been separated from his family, thrown into a juvenile home and eventually adopted by an Australian couple, only to later track down his family using Google Earth. Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman will also star, but it’s Patel who’ll have to carry the film, and you can read in this Vanity Fair account of the true story on which the film is based that he clearly has an incredibly emotionally potent part to play. Weinstein's been wrong before, but not often, and this kind of bullish confidence suggests test screenings have been going well —we wouldn’t want to bet against him. 

The Railway Man, Colin Firth

Colin Firth - “Deep Water”
It hasn't been that long since Colin Firth was a bit of a punchline, having been reduced to bill-paying fare like “St. Trinian’s” and “Mamma Mia.” But the last few years have seen him undergo an extraordinary credibility makeover, thanks to an Oscar nod and then an Oscar win for “A Single Man” and “The King’s Speech” respectively, followed by a reinvention as an action star with “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” And a return to the awards season looks absolutely viable this year, as he’s teamed with “The Theory Of Everything” director James Marsh for “Deep Water.” Based on a documentary of the same name and telling the troubling and fascinating story of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, falling somewhere between “All Is Lost” and “A Beautiful Mind,” it should let Firth show further range. If this film can find a U.S. distributor in time, it could well be in the conversation.