This year’s Oscar race for best actor features a wide range of actors, most of them playing troubled protagonists in dramas with heavy themes. The exception: Ryan Gosling as a charming musician in the upbeat musical “La La Land.” That movie seems destined to turn most of its 14 nominations into wins — but probably not in this category.
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
He’s charismatic, he’s funny, he sings and dances as well as any nonsinger and nondancer could. Still, is this really an Oscar-worthy acting performance? “La La Land” wouldn’t be as good without him, but a win here seems unlikely.
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
He’s been lying kind of low since his acclaimed performance as a violent Russian mobster in 2007’s “Eastern Promises,” but Mortensen came roaring back in this comedy-drama about the patriarch of a back-to-the-land family forced to return to society. He’s definitely a critics’ favorite again, if a dark horse at the Oscars.
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
As a troubled loner who suddenly finds himself the legal guardian of a teenager, Affleck is sublime in this Kenneth Lonergan drama. Although he’s turned in many a great performance over the years — notably “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” — this could be the year Ben’s younger brother gets his Oscar.
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
He used to be Spider-Man, remember? Fans never quite warmed to him, however, and after two movies his franchise came to an abrupt end. Now he’s got an Oscar nod for playing a real-life World War II soldier in a movie directed by Mel Gibson, who’s nominated for best director. That’s two comebacks in one movie.
Denzel Washington, “Fences”
Who better to adapt an August Wilson play than Denzel Washington? It’s worth noting that Washington also directed himself as Troy Maxson, a working-class man with a bitter streak. An Oscar nomination was all but guaranteed, though a win could be out of reach.