Oscar Experts Typing: Will ‘King Richard’ serve up a Best Actor win for Will Smith?


Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing , a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we discuss if it’s advantage Smith in the Best Actor race.

Christopher Rosen : Hello, Joyce! It’s Friday, Timothee Chalamet fans are ready to have a great weekend with the long-awaited releases of both “Dune” and “The French Dispatch,” and we’re fresh off a major awards season moment: the debut of a new “ King Richard trailer complete with Beyonce ’s Best Original Song contender “Be Alive.” What a time to… be alive? I’ve been in on “King Richard” since its Telluride Film Festival premiere and the new teaser does little to dim my enthusiasm. It’s selling the movie I saw — a rousing crowd-pleaser with a huge Will Smith performance just sitting there waiting to win Best Actor. But the trailer does some other stuff too: It offers a glimpse of Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene Price , the Williams family matriarch, a brief moment for Jon Bernthal to shine as Rick Macci , and, of course, the Queen Bey bringing the inspiration. I’ve already got “King Richard” getting nominations for picture, director for Reinaldo Marcus Green , script, and Smith and Ellis. But I’m ready to go ham and have Bernthal in there too, as well as the makeup, score, and song. But what do you think, Joyce, as our resident tennis expert? Am I double-faulting with this confidence?

joyceeng : Well, as you’ve already heard from me yesterday, I am first appalled and offended that they mispronounce Wimbledon as “Wimbleton.” I literally had to pause the trailer to vent and calm down. To be fair to them, lots of people mispronounce it — though I do not understand how because it’s spelled with a “D,” not a “T” — and if this were a movie about anything else, I’d just roll my eyes. However, this is a tennis movie! About the rise of two icons of the sport, one of whom is the GOAT. An unforgivable unforced error. It’s like they didn’t even watch the 2004 classic “ Wimbledon ,” starring Emmy nominee Paul Bettany and one of Ellis’ potential rivals, Kirsten Dunst . OK, rant over. I do not have “King Richard” in as many categories as you do, but I’ve been cautiously optimistic about its chances since its Telluride response last month. It has the potential to be a breakout hit and I can see it being a top five Best Picture contender. I need to hear the entire song, but maybe voters will finally be swayed by Bey (or the prospect of her facing off against Jay-Z , who has a tune in “The Harder They Fall”). I’ve had all three of Smith, Ellis and Bernthal in this entire time, with Smith winning. The consensus Best Actor top three is him, Denzel Washington for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Power of the Dog.” I can make an argument for any of them taking home the gold, and while the latter two front more ostensibly “serious” and “prestigious” films, Smith can pull a — don’t hate me — Rami Malek : winning for a transformative turn in a crowd-pleaser. Do you think this is a routine straight-set victory for the Fresh Prince?

SEE Oscar Experts slugfest: Can ‘The Last Duel’ rebound? Is ‘Being the Ricardos’ being underestimated?

Christopher Rosen : Joyce, as I confessed to you yesterday: I am one of those WimbleTON people. Blame years of listening to WFAN and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo ? I don’t know what else to say. But let’s get to the task at hand: comparing Will to Rami is a deep blow for me (Justice for Jackson Maine forever), but I’ll allow it. I think of it this way: if Rami won for a crowd-pleaser that was bad and also directed by someone disowned by the cast during that awards season, imagine what Will can do with a good movie from a young director on the ascent. I agree Washington and Cumberbatch are running just behind. Then that’s where I think things get a little muddy. I’ve had Peter Dinklage and Andrew Garfield in those last two spots basically since Telluride. Nothing has me running to make changes — and I expect each will have more buzz coming next month as those respective films — but is it as locked up as I think? We saw the trailer for “Being the Ricardos” this week and I’ve been wondering ever since if Javier Bardem has a real shot at a nomination. It’s been a while since Bardem, once a seeming regular at the Oscars, has been back at the dance. We know transformations are always a valuable commodity — look at Rami! So should we start making some room on the list?

joyceeng : The Rami comparison is retaliation for the mispronunciation felony, so let’s call it deuce. I actually added Dinklage to my five yesterday to go along with the aforementioned top three and an unseen Leonardo DiCaprio in “Don’t Look Up,” but those last two spots could go a number of ways. To be honest, I haven’t really given Bardem much thought until now only because I think most of us until the teaser this week thought of the movie, despite its title, being more Lucille Ball / Nicole Kidman -centric (though that could likely just be a result of the outrage over her casting). Bardem doesn’t really look like Desi Arnaz either, and we both talked earlier this week about we don’t care about perfect impersonations, but if the movie lands, he has a shot. Right now, I’d put him in the bottom half of the top 10. And if he does make it, he and Penelope Cruz could get his-and-hers noms! Adorable. When I added Dinklage, I dropped Jackson Maine himself, Bradley Cooper , for another unseen flick, “Nightmare Alley.” You obviously don’t have him either, but he’s in fifth place in the odds and lots of people are also predicting double bids for him here and in supporting, where he’s in second , for “Licorice Pizza.” Do you see him returning to the lead lineup? Maybe it’s time… he wins?

SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Has Ben Affleck raised the ‘Bar’ to ‘Duel’ for Best Supporting Actor?

Christopher Rosen : I think if you asked me before the season who would win this year, I’d have picked Cooper. He does feel overdue for a win and with two big shots, why not him? But I’m not sure he has the goods — and that won’t change until we see one or both of these movies. As with Ben Affleck with “The Last Duel,” I think a flashy role like “Licorice Pizza” can only help Cooper’s candidacy for “Nightmare Alley.” But even if he gets in, I have a hard time thinking he could beat Smith, let alone Washington or Cumberbatch. So let me leave you with one from the back row: can you imagine any world, on this planet or Arrakis, where Timothee Chalamet gets in for my precious “Dune”? In true WFAN fashion, I’ll hang up and take my answer off the air.

joyceeng : I’ll put it this way: if Charlize Theron hardly got traction for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Timmy (and his stans) should manage their expectations (he’s in 20th place in the odds). And we all remember when he was snubbed for “Beautiful Boy” after hitting all the precursors, so it’s not like he can easily pocket noms for weak films either like, say, Jennifer Lawrence did for “Joy.” “Dune” will be a craft beast, but this category is also loaded with lots of high-profile names and films. Mayhaps his golden ticket (#sorrynotsorry) is “Wonka.”

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