Casey Affleck won the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role last night. Denzel Washington, however, was not nominated. And the last time they went head-to-head, at the SAGs, it was Denzel who pulled off the surprise. Which suddenly changed our assumption of what the Best Actor Oscar race was looking like. Previously Casey, the alleged sexual harasser, was supposed to have had it all locked up.
Oscar voting begins today. So it’s a bonus for Casey that Academy members are coming out of this weekend seeing that their British counterparts chose Casey. I wonder how many of them will read about or watch his acceptance speech. If they do, they’ll see that Casey gets personal. And that may be sincere but it can also be a campaign move. Casey reveals that acting is “therapy” for him and recalls how his mother took him to AA meetings when he was young as many of the kids there were “children of alcoholics” and they “would re-enact the person at their home who they were trying to understand”.
Casey has addressed his relationship with his father before in interviews so it’s not like he’s bringing his family history out for the first time. But you can be both strategic and sincere. Some are more effective at it than others.
As mentioned, Denzel was not nominated for a BAFTA so he wasn’t in London this weekend. Instead, he stayed back in LA for the NAACP Image Awards where he won Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. In his speech, he talked about work. About how work requires consistency and commitment, the subtext being that talent is never enough – it is the constant effort behind the talent that brings out great work. Which is why the work is never easy.
I mean, if we’re giving awards based on speech quality, it’s no question who the winner is. But how many Academy voters watch the NAACP Image Awards? Right now, Oscar prediction experts are pretty evenly split between Denzel and Casey with less than two weeks to go before Oscar night. At this point it might even be a tighter race than Best Actress.