In our latest video smackdown, Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil and I take an initial whack at surveying this year’s Best Actor Oscar race. We start with the idea that the not-as-crowded-as-usual field already has a front-runner in Gary Oldman’s brilliant, dominating portrayal of Winston Churchill in the November release, Darkest Hour. Click on the link above to watch.

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Of course, no one really wants to be the front-runner in October as there is nowhere to go but down, especially before the movie has even been released. But reaction to his performance from critics and at Telluride and Toronto clearly have led pundits to put him on top. We take a look at the field, which is less competitive than the Best Actress race (we tackle that later this week) and come up with a lot of veteran multiple Oscar winners such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks  and Denzel Washington — who all have movies yet to open and conceivably could burst Oldman’s bubble.

On the opposite end of the veteran scale is newcomer Timothée Chalamet, who is getting lots of talk for his first big lead in Call Me by Your Name. 

We handicap how weak box office of their current films might hurt the chances of enormously deserving contenders such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Andrew Garfield if it causes distributors to pull back on those campaigns. Plus, I do a big shout-out for Richard Gere, whose performance in the spring release Norman is in  danger of being forgotten but is very worthy of delivering this never-Oscar-nominated star a well-deserved nom.