Academy of One: Best Actor in a Leading Role 2017

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

It isn't tough to find a film with a leading man. Most films produced have a leading man in one way or another. The problem is finding a film with a worthy leading man or a leading man that stands out above the rest of the dozens of leading men out there.

All this to say that while the five men originally nominated are stand outs in their field, a few others may have been overlooked. Here are the nominees as they currently stand.

  • Timothee Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name

  • Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread

  • Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

  • Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

  • Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq.

I see one weak link in this list and I think I have a couple of leading men who could vie for that spot. Here are the possibilities.

  • John Cho - Columbus

  • Robert Pattinson - Good Time

I love methodical films that meditate on the deep emotional core of humans. In Columbus, John Cho plays a role that is built around the audience attempting to know what he's thinking and he's able to convey it with very few words. It's a beautiful lesson in minimalism and restraint.

On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Pattinson is able to go balls to the wall. He's playing where no one would dare to cast him, as a man desperate to rescue his brother from prison by any means necessary. He takes on all comers and gives a performance with grit and energy.

From these two, I definitely have a favorite which means I have to remove my weak link from the original list first. Here is that original list of nominees.

  • Timothee Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name

  • Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread

  • Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

  • Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

  • Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq.

For the second post in a row, I have to go with my gut and remove the original winner from contention. If the award were based on just the two minute trailer for the film, I think Gary Oldman would still have won.

It's possible that some of the voters only watched the trailer because if they saw the film I saw, they would know that the bluster is there, the impersonation is there, but there's just something missing, something that that ten pounds of make-up and prosthetics can't make up for.

Maybe, though what's missing from the conversation, is that in this #MeToo moment, in this moment of becoming a more inclusive society I don't care to see a man like Gary Oldman triumph.

He is a man accused of a brutal assault by his ex-wife and who defended Mel Gibson's abhorrent racist rant and claimed that 12 Years a Slave only won its awards because the voters were afraid of looking racist.

Maybe I'm just done separating art from artist. Maybe I'm seeing the person behind the makeup and the words overtake the the work on the screen.

So, with that, what does the open field look like now. Here is the new list with my addition.

  • Timothee Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name

  • John Cho - Columbus

  • Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread

  • Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

  • Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq.

With Gary Oldman off the board it's an obvious choice who the winner is, right? Short answer, no.

I really do think the five nominees named here have done exceptional work. It's difficult to try and rank such diverse performances and films in my head.

Yet, there is one performance that tops the list each time I rerank it in my mind and that's Daniel Kaluuya.

What's breathtaking about the performance is that Chris, Kaluuya's character, knows something's wrong. He knows something is off about this family, their friends and their servants. He can't know what's coming for him. He can't know the depths of their zeal and depravity, but something is bubbling beneath the microaggressions Chris faces everyday of his life.

Kaluuya's best scene is as he is hypnotized without even realizing it by Catherine Kenner's character. She compels him to reveal the darkness in his past, how he carries around the burden of guilt about his mother's death. We watch as Chris loses control of the situation without knowing it, how his will is transformed and his inner child and the immense grief he feels is played out on the tears that cascade down his face. Just at the zenith of the session as Keener says, "sink," Kaluuya let's his face change and then his body accept the new command.

It's an affecting scene mixed with sheer terror at the loss of control that Daniel Kaluuya pulls off in equal measure, which informs the character choices he makes later and builds the intensity he needs to get himself free of the monsters that plague him.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit the links on this site to where you can buy my self-published works.

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