Timothée Chalamet – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Youth is served! Chalamet, seen in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending INTERSTELLAR and this year’s LADY BIRD, pretty much carries this coming of age drama all the way to the finish line. Much weightier than most YA fare, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is elevated into major awards conversations due to this precocious talent who has actually been at it for more than half of his twenty-one years.
John Cho – COLUMBUS
Given a rare lead role in which to embody hope, pain, diffidence, regret, and forgiveness, John Cho delivers an understated performance that sadly is being ignored in many awards circles. It is not here. It’s high time that this veteran of high-profile franchise enterprises (AMERICAN PIE; HAROLD & KUMAR; the re-booted STAR TREK) got a lead role he is capable of delivering, and in Kogonada’s feature directorial debut, Cho absolutely kills it.
James Franco – THE DISASTER ARTIST
The ubiquitousness of this modern-day Renaissance man has largely proven to be grating at times (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS? SPRING BREAKERS?? THE INTERVIEW?!?), but in serially-cracked eternal optimist Tommy Wiseau, Franco finally has hold of a role that reflects his charms and his various manias. This ballot recommendation is the closest thing to a no-brainer than I could think of.
Daniel Day-Lewis – PHANTOM THREAD
For many years I’ve always referenced THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING as the source of my pet peeve of Daniel Day-Lewis’ career-long affectation for verbal sadism towards women — “Take off your clothes” is Dr. Tomas’ mantra in that film, as subversive and sexist a line as stays with me throughout one’s career. Hints of that exist in the otherwise exquisite PHANTOM THREAD, but is buried under a stately performance that the actor hints may be his valedictory role.
Denzel Washington – ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.
Umm hmmm, I loves me some Denzel! The era typified by his towering performance in Spike Lee’s MALCOLM X (1992) is long past, but Washington’s star turn in Dan Gilroy’s urban thriller proves that my man can still carry a high-profile movie. As L.A. a story as they come, Washington comes to life as a legal shyster that we probably know all too well, and the consequences are as shocking as they are inevitable.
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