Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.

Though not as crowded with richly deserving candidates as the upcoming Best Actress Oscar competition, the Male Thespian category does still manage to offer up some stellar performances in 2016.

Starting with Michael Fassbender’s richly nuanced turn in “Assassin’s Creed”- sorry…just making sure you’re paying attention…!

Anyways, the race is probably going to begin and end with the two most towering performances- Casey Affleck in “Manchester By The Sea” and Denzel (no last name needed) in “Fences”.

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Both play characters who are torn and tormented: Casey Affleck’s internal boilings of self loathing as a lonely-by-choice apartment handyman come to the surface when thrust with the unexpected responsibility of caring for his teenaged nephew in what has to be one of the most sustained recreations of sullen pain and heartbreak brought onto the silver screen this year.

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Just as pained is Denzel Washington’s bitter blue collar garbage man in brilliant American playwright August Wilson’s long-gestating screen adaptation of his seminal Broadway play “Fences” who vents, as opposed to Affleck’s taciturn protagonist,  his rage and rancor in a ballistically scathing series of monologues towards his family in order to keep his own personal fears and tenuous self-image at bay while suffering the failed dreams of his past.

Both performances are explosive in their own way as they also deal with the intimidating and daunting legacy of what if means to be a man in the world you inhabit and the potentially harrowing journey of how to pass that on to the next generation of family.

If there was ever the time for another stalemate in Oscar acting history, it would be only fitting for both of these monumental performances to share the award (the last time was when brash up and comer Babs Streisand for “Funny Girl” tied with Old Hollywood royalty Katherine Hepburn for “The Lion in Winter” in 1968).

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But, alas, the Academy has to fill out their list of 5 nominees so, along with the aforementioned Affleck and Denzel, what follows is my best guess at the remaining Best Actor possibilities:

Joel Edgerton for his quiet but strong performance as the loyal husband who fights the oppressive interracial laws of ‘60’s Virginia all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to be with his wife in American filmmaker Jeff Nicholl’s “Loving”.

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And what would a Best Acting Oscar nominee list be without the yearly appearance of  Tom Hanks for “Bachelor Party” (good- you’re still paying attention…!). Of course, I’m talking about him getting the possible nod for playing everyone’s favorite avuncular airline pilot in “Sully” who does Moses one better by actually landing a plane on the water. Hanks is well-ensconced in the dialogue of modern American movies as the “everyman” heir to the great Jimmy Stewart. Already a two-time winner, never count out this extremely well-liked member of the Academy.

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Well, now, if my math is correct that leaves only one spot left on the ballot. For my money I’d say it will be one of either Andrew Garfield for his humane turn in newly-redeemed Mel Gibson’s impressive directorial comeback “Hacksaw Ridge”, Viggo Mortensen for the anti-establishment ex-hippie patriarch raising his brood off the grid in “Captain Fantastic” (What…no Dirt Brown Cowboy…?) and, in a perfect world, it would be great to see Adam Driver get some love for his poetic bus driver (for some reason the only bus drivers I get are the ones who love to slam on their breaks suddenly while I’m standing ) in iconic filmmaker Jim Jarmush’s “Paterson”.

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So buckle up film lovers- it’s going to be a bumpy ride until the nominations come out next month. Now if I could only get “Sully” to drive my bus…

Viva La Cinema!