Watch out for Oscar favorite Denzel Washington and his acclaimed performance in ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’

Last year, two-time Oscar champ Denzel Washington was a strong contender for his leading role in “Fences,” which he also directed. While he lost the Best Actor race to Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) his co-star Viola Davis did win the Best Supporting Actress Award. This year he could finally win his third Academy Award in 2018 for his acclaimed performance in the legal thriller “Roman J. Israel Esq.”

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The film was written and directed by the Oscar nominated Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”). Washington plays a driven, idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when a turbulent series of events challenge the activism that has defined his career. Although the overall consensus about the film was muted, many of the critics singled out Washington for his riveting performance as the title character.

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While Washington did not reap a Critics’ Choice Awards nomination, he does contend at both the Golden Globes (on the drama side) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He is coming off a win at the latter, where he holds the record for most nominations for an actor in a leading role with five.

At the Oscars, the seven-time contender won one of his two Supporting Actor nominations (“Glory,” 1990) and one of his five Best Actor bids (“Training Day,” 2002). Only a dozen performers have eight or more Oscar nominations for acting and Washington could well be the lucky 13th this year.

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Remember, the actors branch of the academy often nominates their favorite performers for films that are only middling critical successes. Meryl Streep won her third Oscar for “The Iron Lady” despite that film’s 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Glenn Close reaped her sixth Oscar nomination for “Albert Nobbs” (56% rating) while Jennifer Lawrence got her fourth for “Joy” (59%). And down in supporting, Robert Duvall earned his fourth for “The “The Judge” (47%), Penelope Cruz had her third for “Nine” (38%) and Max von Sydow his second for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (46%)

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