Oscar Best Actor nailbiter: Denzel Washington (‘Fences’) just moved ahead of Casey Affleck (‘Manchester By the Sea’)

Denzel Washington (“Fences”)  just moved ahead of Casey Affleck (“Manchester By the Sea”) in the Oscar race for Best Actor according to our Oscar experts derived from major media outlets. Scott Mantz of Access Hollywood is our 25th expert to weigh in on this race and he went with Washington. That broke the tie that had each man with a dozen experts in his corner. Our current odds now favor Washington winning a third Oscar; he is at 1/1 while Affleck has slipped to 6/5.

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Mantz is mindful that Washington pulled off an upset at the SAG Awards on Jan. 29 and that guild has a 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”). ]

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”).

Oscars: Every Best Actor Winner in Academy History (Photo Gallery)

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. Denzel Washington, “Fences” (1/1 odds)
Thelma Adams (Gold Derby), Eric Deggans (NPR), Bonnie Fuller (Hollywood Life), Tim Gray (Variety), Tariq Khan (Fox News), Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo!), Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly), Sasha Stone (Awards Daily), Susan Wloszczyna (RogetEbert.com).

2. Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea,” (6/5 odds)
Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Erik Davis (Fandango), Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior),  Joyce Eng (TV Guide),  Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Jack Mathews (Gold Derby), Michael Musto (Out.com), Keith Simanton (IMDB), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Brian Truitt (USA Today), Adnan Virk (ESPN).

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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