Industry titan faces crop of young talent

Industry titan faces crop of young talent

Denzel Washington is gunning to enter the exclusive club of three-time Oscar winners on Sunday. But can Casey Affleck deny the iconic leading man such a distinction?

The two are poised to duke it out for Best Actor at the 89th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Online sports book gives Affleck odds of -160 to prevail, while Washington’s an even-money option at present. Ryan Gosling, Andrew Garfield and Viggo Mortensen make up the rest of the nominees.

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Technically, Washington’s inhabiting the unfamiliar role of underdog. Yet there’s no disputing that he’s gaining steam at precisely the right time. The 62-year-old’s surprise SAG victory very well could have guaranteed his coronation this weekend insofar as the last 12 males to capture said honor went on to secure the golden statue. In any event, Washington delivered an electrifying performance in “Fences.” His boisterous, charismatic Troy Maxson, which earned him a Tony in 2010, anchored the big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s classic play.

Affleck was asked to summon up a decidedly more internalized turn in “Manchester by the Sea.” He responded to the challenge, crafting a masterfully shaded portrayal of an emotionally tormented handyman. Garfield (+4000) brought a similar element of pathos to “Hacksaw Ridge.” Unfortunately, Mel Gibson’s examination of the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor didn’t exactly go to town in the other principal categories.

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Tone-wise, “La La Land” forced Gosling (+2000) to do something completely different. He spent three months learning how to play the piano for his part in Damien Chazelle’s smash musical. Still, Gosling willingly cedes a fair number of “big” moments to co-star Emma Stone. On the contrary, “Captain Fantastic,” on the contrary, provides a singular showcase for Mortensen (+10000). But how many voters truly adored Matt Ross’ take on a family reintegrating into society after living in the wilderness?

At the end of the evening, Washington’s work should hit that sweet spot between bombast and nuance. He’ll be the third individual to direct himself to an acting Oscar, joining the ranks of Laurence Olivier and Roberto Benigni. Chalk it up as yet another reminder of the native New Yorker’s living-legend status.


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