The Best Actor in a Leading Role category is pretty much called for at this point with a posthumous award likely to be given out Oscar night. However, there are so many great performances throughout the year, it would be a pity to gloss over them.
Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods)
Delroy Lindo has been disrespected come this awards season. The rumors surrounding his lack of nominations have been anywhere from his race or the fact that his character is a Trump supporter. However you choose to look at his performance in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, I think we can all agree that this is one of the scariest performances of 2020. Delroy emptied himself into this role — becoming a crazed man driven by the horrors and guilt during his time fighting in the Vietnam War. The landmine moment between Lindo and Johnathan Majors, who plays Lindo’s son in the film, still gets to me as I replay it in my head. It’s a shame that Delroy can’t find his name on the top 5 male performances of the year. To be honest, a film like Da 5 Bloods, that came out too early in the year, likely became a distant memory with voters.
Steven Yeun (Minari)
Most known as Glen in The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun has been able to take different distinguishable film roles since his time fighting off zombies. 2018’s Burning was my favorite performance of Yeun’s up until Minari. Everything about Minari beautifully portrays the lives of this immigrant family, struggling to provide a better life for their family. Yeun plays Jacob, the patriarch of the family. Dipping into his own personal experience as a Korean-American, Yeun gives an absolutely stellar performance by conveying to the audience such emotions with pain, and sometimes overwhelming defeat within this new chapter. Minari is a masterful piece of cinema, and Yeun gives an absolutely striking and inspirational performance.
Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
There are many actors who leave this earth with their last film being inadequate next to the rest of the outstanding roles within their resumé. Though Chadwick Boseman will always be remembered as Black Panther, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom gave him an opportunity to really shine. A man plagued by his own personal demons, on a bender that takes a turn for both him and his bandmates as they gather to record Ma’s new record. I wasn’t completely struck by the film itself, but Boseman’s performance is riveting in every way. The clear frontrunner for all awards season recognition, and, I must say, a performance that’s deserving of those awards.
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Anthony Hopkins has more than had his fair share of poignant performances. His performance in Silence of the Lambs will live on in people’s memory as one of most terrifying characters to ever grace the big screen. Though he earned some recent recognition for 2019’s The Two Popes where he played Pope Benedict XVI, Hopkins’ performance in The Father is his best role in years. Hopkins plays Anthony, a man fighting against the cruel betrayal of his mind with the escalating stages of dementia. The Father’s overall story is incredibly soul-crushing, and not one that I’d recommend for the faint of heart, but Hopkins brings so much more than simply reading the lines on the page. His emotional struggle, the anger and frustration, will tear away at your heart. No other recent performance of Hopkins comes close to this one.
Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
Riz Ahmed has flown under the radar by starring in indie movies, having bit side parts, or starring in numerous television series. But Sound of Metal brings a new side to Ahmed’s career. It wasn’t hard to choose a winner in this category, even as it is filled to the brim with great performances. But Ahmed gave all of himself as he plays Ruben, a musician rapidly losing his hearing. Sound of Metal is not a film to skip out on this year, thanks to the incredible cast. I said in my review that I am not one to cry during films, but Ruben’s realization of learning to live with his disability is sympathetically brought to the screen with Ahmed’s impeccable talents. He leads the way with critics group nominations (at the moment) but may find himself a long-shot to winning any major awards. I’m holding out hope that Ahmed may garner a little love from at least one awards show. He defiantly deserves so much more recognition than he’s received.