Denzel Washington in ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq’: From Toronto hit to Oscar #3?

Two-time Oscar champ Denzel Washington could well win his third for the taut legal drama “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” which premiered to rave reviews at the Toronto film festival on Sept. 10. Washington plays the title character, a liberal lawyer forced to take over the running of his law firm when his partner has a heart attack. He discovers that all is not what it seems and is forced into action when his principles are challenged by his practice.

Columbia was so confident in the Oscar prospects for this picture that it dropped this sophomore effort by writer/director Dan Gilroy into the festival at the last minute. Gilroy, who reaped an Academy Awards bid for scripting his 2014 directorial debut “Nightcrawler,” could well contend in that category again for his character study that he wrote with Washington in mind.

Washington was a frontrunner in last year’s Best Actor race for reprising his Tony-winning role in “Fences” but was edged out by Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”). With that Oscar IOU in hand, expect the respected Hollywood veteran to be a strong contender this time around. He is sure to rack up even more rave reviews for “Roman Israel, Esq.” prior to its Nov. 3 release which puts it out ahead of many of the other Oscar contenders.

After reading excerpts from the first notices, be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives 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.

Leslie Felperin (THR): This nervy, admirably cerebral story — about a lawyer (Denzel Washington) trying to find a way to keep the flame of 1960s activism and idealism alight — has many fine and noble qualities. Just for starters, there’s a typically studied, finely calibrated performance from Washington, evocative use of downtown Los Angeles locations, a magnificent soundtrack of vintage funk and soul and a pleasingly retro use of punctuation in its title.

Owen Gleiberman (Variety): Roman is a fantastic character, and Washington’s high-wire performance is one of his most daring and compelling. It could be the locomotive that drives this train — at the box office, and at awards time.

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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