2020 Oscar Category Breakdown: Best Actor

Today we go over Best Actor. Which, when I think back over this category in the years I’ve covered these awards (or even watched them seriously), it’s hard for me to think of many categories that felt like legitimate toss-ups. Most of the time there’s a clear winner and then a nominal second choice and then sometimes we get the one versus the other, but the precursors tend to heavily favor one over the other, so you’re generally pretty sure how that’s gonna turn out. Which is odd to me, given how major a category this is.

This year feels like it’s another one of those situations where we all know what’s gonna happen going in, and it’s less about who’s going to win as much as it’s about appreciating who’s going to win and the impact they had on the film industry in such a short time.

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Gary Oldman, Mank

Steven Yeun, Minari

This was a very straightforward category all the way through. These were pretty much the same five you saw everywhere in all the precursors and ultimately it ended up being just about the best category we could have possibly gotten, with a mix of veterans and newcomers and just all around really solid work.

Which is nice, even as we knew all along how this one was gonna turn out.

5. Anthony Hopkins, The Father — Hopkins is a veteran and is beloved, but he doesn’t need the award anymore and has already had his time in the sun. People won’t feel the need to vote for him outside of those who truly thought he gave the best performance. But as we all know, so many of these awards aren’t about what people think is the best. This is one of those clear ‘nice to see him here’ nominations that won’t be anything more than that.

4. Gary Oldman, Mank — He just won a few years ago, the film, despite having the most overall nominations, doesn’t have any real heat behind it, and generally you know if there’s any love for a performance going into the ceremony. This feels exactly like the right spot for him. He might catch a few votes, but ultimately isn’t a factor in this race.

3. Steven Yeun, Minari — The film is widely liked and he’s got a real fanbase out there that is thrilled to see him get nominated. However, he’s not someone who’s crossed into the mainstream of voters’ minds. This is more of a ‘welcome to the party’ nomination than anything and most people won’t feel any need to vote for him. But the stature of the film and that fan base that is out there for him should keep him solidly in the middle of the pack in terms of vote-getting. Though without any precursor wins, he’s not a real factor for the win.

2. Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal — In another year, he might be the winner of this category. But that’s just not how things went. So instead he’s got his first nomination, he’s an actor people greatly respect, and if he can find himself back here again soon, he might have a real shot at walking away with a statue. Until then, he’s a distant second choice in a category with a really obvious winner.

1. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — We all knew this was coming. From the outset it felt like he was gonna take this one home and we were gonna use the posthumous win as a legacy sealer. He’s got two precursor wins and should pick up the third tonight. This category is a done deal and is one of those you won’t even have to think about when filling out your ballot.

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