Oscar Best Actor battle: Casey Affleck (‘Manchester By the Sea’) still leads but Denzel Washington (‘Fences’) rising fast

Casey Affleck (“Manchester By the Sea”) remains out front in the Oscar race for Best Actor, with 14 of our 22 Oscar experts derived from major media outlets continuing to back his bid. However, coming up fast is Denzel Washington (“Fences”) who pulled off an upset at the SAG Awards. He now has the support of eight experts who are well aware of the guild’s stellar track record at previewing the eventual Oscar champ. Eighteen of the 22 SAG winners have gone on to claim an Oscar bookend, including the last 12 in a row. [2003 SAG champ Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) was bested at the Oscars by Sean Penn (“Mystic River”). ]

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For his stirring portrayal in “Manchester by the Sea” of a loner forced to confront his past when a family crisis requires him to return home, Affleck has already won Best Actor from a jaw-dropping 29 of the 33 critics groups surveyed. He contended at the 2007 Oscars in Best Supporting Actor for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” but lost to Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”).

Washington, who took top honors from two critics groups, won a Tony in 2010 for headlining the first Broadway revival of the August Wilson domestic drama “Fences.” He reprises his role as an ex-baseball player struggling to provide for his family and directed the film as well. Washington has won two of his six previous Oscar bids [“Glory” (supporting, 1989) and “Training Day” (lead, 2001)].

See how our experts rank Oscar nominees according to likelihood of winning in all top races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see other categories. And see individual experts’ Oscar predictions as well.

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BEST ACTOR

1. Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea,” (2/3 odds)
Thelma Adams (Gold Derby), Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Erik Davis (Fandango), Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior),  Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Jack Mathews (Gold Derby), Keith Simanton (IMDB),  Sasha Stone (Awards Daily), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Brian Truitt (USA Today), Adnan Virk (ESPN).

2. Denzel Washington, “Fences” (9/5 odds)
Tim Gray (Variety), Tariq Khan (Fox News), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo!), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly),  Susan Wloszczyna (RogetEbert.com).

3. Ryan Gosling, “La La Land” (50/1 odds)

4. Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge” (66/1 odds)

5. Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic” (80/1 odds)

Predict the Oscar winners now; change them till February 26

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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