Entertainment

Who Will Win Best Actor at the 2022 Oscars?

Could it be Will Smith? Or Benedict Cumberbatch? Or Denzel Washington?

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

This year’s Best Actor race is a throw-down among some capital-M movie stars. You’ve got Will Smith hoping to finally get the trophy that has eluded him, while A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and Denzel Washington are back in the mix. But can they hold off an eerie, triumphant Benedict Cumberbatch and the singing voices of both Peter Dinklage and Andrew Garfield? Let’s dive into the race.

Read our Best Picture and Best Actress predictions here.

The front-runner: Will Smith, King Richard

Throughout his career, blockbuster king Will Smith has every so often made a play for awards glory. He received nominations for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, while other attempts fell flat. (Collateral Beauty is probably better forgotten.) But he has his best shot at a trophy thus far with King Richard, where he plays Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Serena and Venus. Smith was crowned the presumptive winner after the film, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), premiered at Telluride, and while no one has really emerged as a major competitor, his buzz has quieted since then. When the movie debuted in theaters and on HBO Max in November, there were internet debates over the focus on Richard instead of his daughters, as well as whether Smith’s performance was really all that accurate. Plus, Smith has made news for some of the arguably TMI revelations on the press tour for his recent memoir.

Netflix
Netflix
Netflix

Likely challengers:
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

If anyone’s going to unseat Will Smith, it’s Benedict Cumberbatch, who gives the best performance of his career in Jane Campion’s thrilling drama The Power of the Dog. Cumberbatch’s against-type casting as a viciously macho cowboy is the key to the film’s saga of repression. So far, he’s been lauded with a win from the New York Film Critics Circle and was the runner-up from the Los Angeles critics group. (Full disclosure: This writer is a member of the NYFCC.)

Peter Dinklage, Cyrano

Peter Dinklage has four Emmys from his time on Game of Thrones, but can he add an Oscar to his collection? Possibly. Dinklage has received strong notices for his take on the classic Edmond Rostand character-this time sans the big nose-in a musical adaptation of the play directed by Joe Wright (Atonement) and with songs by The National. Yes, he sings too.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Leo has his Oscar, but can he ride a wave of love for Don’t Look Up to another nomination? The movie got skeptical reviews from critics, but it has some very loud fans who are championing its importance as a climate-change allegory after its recent Netflix debut. DiCaprio shakes off his Pussy Posse aura to play a nerdy scientist-who is also very handsome, duh-and even gets his own not-going-to-take-it-anymore Network moment.

Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick…Boom!

Speaking of singing, Andrew Garfield belts his heart out as Rent creator Jonathan Larson in this adaptation of one of Larson’s early works, which happens to be about Larson writing his early work. Garfield, who had a great year overall, has energy to match his sky-high hair in this wonderful portrait of an artist trying to figure out whether his dreams are worth pursuing.

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

It’s Denzel. It’s Macbeth. It’s hard to deny, and I doubt the Academy will either. Washington, already a two-time winner, gives a terrifying performance as Shakespeare’s mad thane in Joel Coen’s adaptation. He leans into the character’s weariness as his reign of terror grows.

Neon
Neon
Neon

Long shots

The actor most likely to upset one of his peers mentioned above is Javier Bardem. His co-star Nicole Kidman is nearly a shoo-in for a nomination for her turn as Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos, and if voters really love the movie, Bardem could slip in there too. Bradley Cooper already has four nominations just for acting-plus more for other endeavors-and he could get a fifth for playing a morally bankrupt mentalist in Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. Unfortunately, our hopes for a Simon Rex nomination for his deserving performance as a washed-up porn star in the indie darling Red Rocket are probably far-fetched despite the love he has received from critics; alas, this will not be the year of the MTV-VJ-to-Oscar-nominee career trajectory. Joaquin Phoenix followed up his Joker win with low-key work in Mike Mills’ delicate C’mon C’mon, but the Oscars like Phoenix best when he goes big. And finally, Nicolas Cage did some of the best work of his career in Pig, but the small film is unlikely to attract the Academy’s attention.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

'Top Gun: Maverick' Is the Perfect Adrenaline Rush

Tom Cruise's sequel brings the charms of the original classic into the modern era.

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

What does it take to make a great action drama? Fighter jets. Kenny Loggins music. Tom Cruise. In 1986, Top Gun, perhaps the ultimate “guys being dudes” action movie set within a training school for the Navy’s best fighter pilots, patented this formula, and added in a bunch of sweaty guys playing beach volleyball and an iconic love scene to seal the deal. Top Gun‘s massive popularity made the announcement of a sequel seem the most natural thing in the world, if not the most exciting: an elder Tom Cruise handing the reins off to a new generation of elite actors. If that’s what you’re expecting, you’re in for a surprise. Top Gun is a classic. Top Gun: Maverick does everything Top Gun did and more.

It’s been thirty-six years since Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) completed his TOPGUN program, but he’s far from the decorated officer he was destined to become by the end of the first movie. He’s dodged every promotion he could dodge, working as a test pilot flying hypersonic stealth jets for the military, but the specter of unmanned drones looms ever closer, spelling the end for an entire era of warfare. Not so fast, though-Maverick is called back to a certain fighter training school as an instructor, tasked with putting together a team of the best of the best to complete a bombing run involving some absurdly complex flying maneuvers at high speed much too close to the ground in enemy territory. If you will, an impossible mission.

The new crop of airmen, now flying F/A-18 Hornets instead of F-14 Tomcats, are kids in Maverick’s eyes, and he shows up to teach them what’s what, inventing training exercises to test their mettle and teach them how to fly as a team. It’s not going to be easy, with the egos of pilots like “Hangman” (Glen Powell), “Fanboy” (Danny Ramirez), “Coyote” (Greg Tarzan Davis) and “Phoenix” (Monica Barbaro) repeatedly clashing as they struggle to work together. And there are two more problems: He only has a few weeks to train these kiddos up to fly a mission from which they might not all return, and one of his students, sullen Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), is the son of Maverick’s old flying partner Goose, who tragically died in the first movie. Not to mention reconnecting with an old flame, single mother Penny (Jennifer Connelly), who manages the local bar and is not about to fall yet again for a guy who’s left her more than once. You see where this is going.

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The movie begins with a collection of the greatest hits of its predecessor, including but not limited to a montage of jets landing on an aircraft carrier lit by the golden light of the sun, Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” and Maverick defying orders to do something with an aircraft that nobody’s ever done before. This is, after all, a movie that will have more than a few similarities to the one that came before. After that, though, the engines kick into gear (I apologize if this car metaphor doesn’t also work for planes), and Top Gun: Maverick starts to try out a few new tricks.

The interpersonal relationships between the characters are fun and fully realized (Maverick’s perpetual battle of egos with his commanding officer, a Vice Admiral known as “Cyclone” (Jon Hamm) is a highlight) and there’s just enough downtime between white-knuckle action to really get to know everyone. The sweaty beach game returns, but the macho posturing is toned down, given that we live in a new millennium and one of the main pilots is a woman. Val Kilmer reprises his “Iceman” for a touching scene. All of this is complemented by unbelievable flying sequences that will genuinely leave you breathless, each lightning-fast dogfight game and training simulation grander and faster than the last. This is the type of film to see as big and loud as possible.

But, as the original was, Top Gun: Maverick is also simply a straight-up great time at the movies. It makes the act of being a good movie look like the easiest thing in the world, with director Joseph Kosinski showing off everything he’s got. (Yes, you should give Tron: Legacy another shot.) Because “the enemy” is never named, as in the first movie, it is comfortably apolitical (if you disregard the fact that the jets Maverick eventually goes up against are Russian, and what a boon the original Top Gun was for U.S. military recruitment programs), and even though the whole movie is working towards a life-or-death wartime mission, it never forgets that its purpose is to thrill and excite. Great action movies aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Like a good wingman, Top Gun: Maverick swoops in to save the day.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

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