Daniel Kaluuya (‘Get Out’): Why we shouldn’t count him out of wide-open Oscar race for Best Actor

If there’s one thing most Oscar watchers agree on, it’s that Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) is the frontrunner for Best Actor. If there’s another thing they agree on it’s that you can never count out Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”). Beyond that, though, not much is certain, so there is still room to maneuver in the category. That’s why I think a case can be made for Daniel Kaluuya to earn a bid for “Get Out.”

On paper, “Get Out” is not an Oscar contender. It’s a satirical horror film released way back in February — “The English Patient” it’s not. But it has already defied expectations in more ways than one. It was nearly universally acclaimed with a score of 84 on MetaCritic and 99% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes (to be exact, it has 285 positive reviews and only two negative reviews). And it was a huge hit at the box office. Profit margins are usually pretty favorable for low-budget horror films, but even by those standards “Get Out” was a smash hit, grossing more than $250 million worldwide against a budget of $4.5 million.

Success sells at the Oscars, and according to our combined predictions “Get Out” is already a likely nominee for Best Picture (ranked eighth with 16/1 odds), Best Original Screenplay (ranked third with 11/2 odds), and Best Film Editing (ranked fifth with 14/1 odds). First-time filmmaker Jordan Peele is also a dark-horse contender for Best Director, ranking among the top 10 contenders with five of our Expert film journalists betting on him to make the cut. But if the film earns bids in most of those categories it would be strange for the film’s star not to be in the conversation. And indeed there are three Experts who do think Kaluuya will be nominated: Michael Musto (NewNowNext), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone).

Kaluuya plays Chris Washington, a young black man who visits his white girlfriend’s family with terrifying results. It’s an emotionally showy performance — just consider his work in closeup during the film’s famous hypnosis scene — and has already started to make waves. He’s nominated for Best Actor at the Gotham Awards against an impressive field: Oscar frontrunner Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”), James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”), Robert Pattinson (“Good Time”), Adam Sandler (“The Meyerowitz Stories”), and the late Harry Dean Stanton (“Lucky”).

The 28-year-old actor also won the Next Generation award at the MTV Movie and TV Awards. Okay, so that’s not traditionally an Oscar precursor, but it could be a preview of the season to come, where Kaluuya could receive a number of breakthrough-performance plaudits. Those kinds of victories — like the Best First Film prizes Peele might start racking up as a director — will keep the film at the forefront of the awards conversation, where it will need to be for the February film to be remembered by the academy when they’re marking their ballots almost a year after its release.

Do you agree that Kaluuya could be a Best Actor contender?

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives and top name stars can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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