By many accounts, 2017 has been something of a down year in film. That is not to say there has not been plenty of interesting movies and box office hits. But where critical acclaim is concerned, not too many projects have garnered significant attention. In fact, in this regard, it is largely been a year of television takeover (though some are arguing the so-called “golden age” of television is also nearing its end).
It is certainly true that television has had more noteworthy moments over the course of 2017. Game Of Thrones captivated audiences like few shows ever have; programs from Atlanta to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to This Is Us continued to delight their respective fan bases; South Park returned with a far more cohesive season after making a mess of itself during the 2016 presidential election. And in a recent podcast with New York Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris, sports and pop culture writer Bill Simmons correctly pointed out that the release of Stranger Things season 2 on Netflix was bigger than any single film event of the year. That is absolutely true, at least at this point (though Star Wars Episode VIII is around the corner).
Interestingly, as we headed into the Emmys, it was also apparent that the lead actor categories, in particular, were stocked with heavy-hitters. Anthony Hopkins was involved for his excellent work on Westworld, as was Ewan McGregor for Fargo. And even in the “limited series” category, as one preview pointed out, Robert DeNiro was arguably the biggest name on the year’s Emmy awards list for his work on The Wizard Of Lies. Those are serious names that we expect to see in contention for film awards rather than television.
However, do not let these narratives divert your focus from the Best Actor Oscar race that is to come. It is true that television has been arguably more impactful in 2017, as well as that more A-list film actors are exploring limited series and other TV dramas. But even if it is a mildly underwhelming year in cinema, we appear to be heading for one of the great Best Actor races in years. Here are some of the men who appear to be likely nominees.
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) – Oldman will play the part of Winston Churchill in his early days as England’s prime minister when he was faced with making crucial decisions that would shape World War II. The makeup and physical transformation that went into the role is astounding, and it looks like the performance of Oldman’s esteemed career.
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) – This is a strange-looking drama about a dressmaker who becomes dramatically involved with his muse. But we have learned in the past that Daniel Day-Lewis is always an Oscar threat – and according to the actor himself, this may well be his last film.
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) – Chalamet will be the relative newcomer of the group, but people are already raving about his performance. The film will depict a budding relationship between Chalamet’s character and his father’s research assistant while the two are abroad in Italy. You may recognize Chalamet from a small role in Interstellar.
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) – Washington missed out despite an incredible performance in Fences a year ago. But he could be back in the mix playing what looks to be a somewhat eccentric defense attorney in an inventive legal drama.
Tom Hanks (The Post) – This could be the timeliest film of the year, covering an important era in journalism (when many believe journalism is particularly important in our modern political climate). Hanks will be part of a powerhouse trio, starring alongside Meryl Streep with Steven Spielberg directing.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger) – Gyllenhaal is not quite on the same tier as most of these actors, yet – but he is certainly established himself as a young A-lister in recent years. In this powerful film he plays the role of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing persevering in his everyday life.
Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman) – Some thought Jackman could be an outside contender for Logan, his last film as the superhero Wolverine. But it’s The Greatest Showman, a larger-than-life original musical about P.T. Barnum, that’s likely to get him a nomination – and possibly a win.
Add it all up and this could be an extraordinary category this year. You have perhaps three of the greatest living actors in Hanks, Day-Lewis, and Washington, two acclaimed fan favorites in Gyllenhaal and Jackman, and a very exciting newcomer in Chalamet. So while it’s true that TV has poached a lot of attention and even the time of a few great actors in 2017, this category alone should keep the cinematic award season very interesting.
Oh, and if the above names weren’t enough to get you excited, consider this: there is an outside shot Luke Skywalker even makes an appearance. J.J. Abrams has predicted a nomination for Mark Hamill for his work in Star Wars Episode VIII!