The big question this year? Jowls vs. Teeth, Cheney vs. Mercury, Batman vs. Hackerman… Bale vs. Malek.
All this weekend leading up to the 91st Annual Academy Awards looking at each category and diving into who may take home the Oscar. Today we’re looking at the Best Actor category. We’ll explain what the category means and who the frontrunner is as of now.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role
This category is rather self-explanatory; it’s awarded to the male actor who gives the best performance in a lead role of a film. The Acting branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chooses who they believe are the best candidates and the top five get nominations. From there, the entire Academy chooses the winner. This year the nominees are Christian Bale in Vice, Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born, Willem Dafoe in At Eternity’s Gate, Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, and Viggo Mortensen in Green Book.
This is an interesting year as four of the five nominees are portraying real people, with three of them being names that are well known by audiences (Freddie Mercury, Dick Cheney, and Vincent van Gogh). Those portrayals may, in fact, help these actors this year as the Academy loves to award actors for biopics. If an actor can lose themselves in the role of someone real and make the performance believable, then it gets attention.
At this point, it’s clear that the two frontrunners this year are Christian Bale as Dick Cheney and Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Both actors are completely lost in their roles, and their respective films would fail without their performances steering the way. When we looked at Bohemian Rhapsody, we talked about the fact that the only reason the film works is because of Malek’s performance. We also talked about the fact that Bale does an amazing job of going from a lower-level lackey to a conniving bastard over the course of Vice. Both of them command the screen completely in their films and deserve to be the frontrunners here.
That’s not to say that most of the other nominees don’t give amazing performances. Dafoe is at the top of his game as Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, and some of the most beautiful moments of that film work because of what he brings to the screen. There are large portions of the film where he doesn’t say a word, but we feel everything he’s presenting to us. Cooper does a great job showing the ups and downs of stardom and portraying the realities of issues with addiction and mental health in A Star is Born. For that, he deserves attention. But overall, Malek and Bale stand neck-and-neck here.
In the end, we have to give the lead to Malek. He’s already won the BAFTA, the SAG Award, and the Golden Globe for this role. While only two out of three of those overlap when it comes to voters, they still make an impact. Bohemian Rhapsody has a stain on it due to Bryan Singer’s involvement, but Malek has stated that he had major issues with Singer and has reinforced that Singer was fired from the film. If anything, Malek has been the voice crying out to save the film. Even if there is a cloud lingering over it, he’s the rainbow just behind that cloud.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Rami Malek; Bohemian Rhapsody