David Onda’s Countdown to the 2017 Oscars: Who Will Win Best Actor?

Best Actor nominees

Best Actor nominees Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling and Viggo Mortensen.

The Oscar statues have arrived on Hollywood Blvd.

You know Oscars Sunday is almost here when the first 6-foot-tall trophy statues are finally wheeled out onto the red carpet and begin to take their place along the arrivals area. But did you know that the statues go through meticulous touch-ups before making their debut?

Many set pieces are reused on the red carpet from year-to-year, but they aren’t simply rolled out of a warehouse somewhere in Hollywood and plopped down on the boulevard. Each year, a parking lot behind the El Capitan Theatre is the staging grounds for the red carpet’s accouterments. And yesterday, like an intimidating, silent, golden army, 16 giant Oscar statues stood out in the California sun awaiting fresh coats of glistening gold paint.

I’ve often said that the red carpet crew works around the clock preparing the arrivals area for Oscars Sunday, and that’s not hyperbole. The crews literally work through the night. And as I strolled down Hollywood Blvd. at around 11:30 p.m. last night, they were still hammering away in the unusually cold and windy L.A. night. That’s when I noticed the first statues had made the journey from pavement to carpet.

The Oscar statues get a pre-show paint job (left) and make their red carpet debut late Thursday night (right).

Oscar statues get a pre-show paint job (left) and make their red carpet debut late Thursday night.

I’ve made a slightly startling discovery during my travels through Hollywood this week.

Although I’ve considered most of this year’s big winners (I’m looking at you, Emma Stone) a relative lock to win, the general public is widely divided on which actors, actresses and films will take home an Oscar.

For example, last night I talked to a man dressed like Olaf the snowman from Disney’s “Frozen,” who not only believes Michael Shannon will win Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “Nocturnal Animals,” but claimed that “Lion” will win Best Picture. Um, what? His companion–who was, of course, dressed as Tinkerbell–told me Natalie Portman would win Best Actress for “Jackie,” before remembering she loves Meryl Streep and quickly changing her vote.

I guess the point is, we can sit here for hours and discuss who or what will win an Oscar, but at the end of the day, no two people process a movie the same way. That’s what makes film so special. To Olaf the Hollywood snowman, Michael Shannon is this year’s Best Supporting Actor. And that’s OK.

But … all that said … here are my predictions for Best Actor. The nominees are:

  • Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”)
  • Denzel Washington (“Fences”)
  • Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
  • Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”)
  • Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”)

If there were any category “La La Land” is almost certain to lose, it’s this one. And I love Ryan Gosling in this movie. But, frankly, I think Emma Stone’s incredible performance makes him look more like a supporting talent than a commanding leading man. And while we’re eliminating nominees, I think we can rule out Viggo and Andrew as well. Sorry, guys.

Who Will Win: Casey Affleck. Ugh, this is hard. It’s a toss-up between Casey and Denzel, but Affleck has already won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Award, so I think this may be a lock. Casey gives a performance worthy of the Best Actor Oscar–commanding, nuanced and emotional from beginning to end–but if you’re familiar with his sordid past, this one may be a hard pill to swallow.

Who Should Win: Denzel Washington. Does Denzel need to win a third Oscar? Probably not. But his performance in “Fences” might be one of the finest examples of a leading performance in recent memory. The man doesn’t take a breath for the 30 minutes of the movie! It’s Denzel at his finest, and it would be so special to see he and Viola Davis both win on Sunday.

Who Could Win: Denzel Washington. I think it’s a toss-up.

That’s all for now. Remember: Beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, visit xfinity.com/oscars for the Oscars All Access live stream and my backstage chat. I’ll be in the Oscars press room with behind-the-scenes notes, winner reactions and more. You can set an email reminder now by clicking here.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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