The Oscars are still five months away. It’s early. I know it’s early. But if you’re an award season nerd, and I know you’re out there, it doesn’t feel too early this year to be talking about the races. Because at this point in the game, it feels like there is a legitimate race across several categories. And this is a good thing – both for the audience and for contenders and for the Oscars, because suspense is fun. Suspense is more fun when you’re invested, when you care about the movies and the actors. Suspense is also more possible, in my opinion, when more people can care about more movies. Which is what could be special about this year. When you have popular films like Black Panther and A Star is Born up against smaller films like Roma or The Favourite or If Beale Street Could Talk, all included alongside mid-budget pictures like First Man, it gives the race more depth, and it’s a truer representation too of what the industry is or should be. 

With that in mind, as I’ve observed over the last few weeks, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling seem to be on a collision course for Best Actor. In ASIB, Coop delivers the most vulnerable performance of his career. In First Man, Ryan Gosling explores the interiority of an iconic American hero and, in the process, gives a deeper understanding of what it means to be heroic when heroism is foisted upon him. Their films open a week apart. They’re both on the promotional circuit at the same time. Here’s Ryan arriving at Jimmy Kimmel yesterday while Coop was in New York with Jimmy Fallon for The Tonight Show. They’ve been both previously nominated multiple times for Oscar. Their co-stars, Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone, went on to win the Best Actress Oscar. So within the Academy’s membership, they each have their supporting factions. You know how celebrity friends of contenders will often campaign for their buddies? Imagine if Jennifer Lawrence hosts a campaign event for Bradley Cooper, with David O Russell and that crew, while Emma Stone starts stumping for Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle? Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper go back (they’ve worked on a play and a movie together) but Sandra Bullock and Ryan Gosling, ahem, have history too. Coop’s very close with Robert DeNiro but Ryan’s got Brad Pitt (he starred in and produced The Big Short) and George Clooney. It’s a pretty even matchup pound for pound. How will the stars align in this battle? 

Or… is there someone else they’d rather vote for? That’s next.