I know what you’re thinking. Is this a real prediction? Or is it just fantasy? Before you assume that I’m caught in a landslide (with no escape from reality), please open your eyes and look up to the skies and see … Here are five reasons why Rami Malek can win the Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
1. He plays a real person AND is physically transformed onscreen.
It’s awardsology 101. The combination of portraying an actual individual plus altering one’s outward appearance is the easiest way to ensnare the academy’s attention. In the past twenty years alone, a plethora of people have won lead statuettes for doing exactly just that.
Look at Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry,” Adrien Brody in “The Pianist,” Nicole Kidman in “The Hours,” Charlize Theron in “Monster,” Jamie Foxx in “Ray,” Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line,” Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland,” Helen Mirren in “The Queen,” Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose,” Sean Penn in “Milk,” Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side,” Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club,” Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” and Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”
Could Malek be this year’s man of the hour? He checks all the boxes. Queen crooner Freddie Mercury was one of the most celebrated musical artists of his time. And with the artificial overbite, wacky wigs and crazy clothes – Malek looks perfect in the part. Audiences see the silhouetto of a man, and so much more.
2. He delivers what will likely be the flashiest performance of the final five.
I used to argue that when it comes to the Academy Awards for acting, it’s more about quantity than quality. Bigger is always better. Less is never more. I’ve had to change my thinking in recent years, after seeing Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies” and Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” sail off with the gold for their rather understated turns. Still, dramatic performances are the ones to bet on.
Consider the results from last year: Oldman in “Darkest Hour” over Timothee Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name,” Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” over Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water,” Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards” over Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project,” and Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” over Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird.” In every case, the Academy (and other groups) went for the showy over the subtle.
This year, Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the ultimate showstopper. Whether he’s in song, dance or discourse, he’s constantly acting for the camera. That’s over two hours of tears, torment and assorted theatrics. And then there’s the Live Aid concert at the end of the film, which has been singled out as the brightest bit in the movie. Malek’s fierce channeling of Mercury sends shivers down the spine. This might be considered his requisite “killer scene.” IfaAcademy electors remember this moment when marking their ballots, Malek could end up killing the competition.
3. He’ll win the SAG Award (and probably the BAFTA, too.)
Note that I’m abstaining from calling the Golden Globe race – as least for now. But when it comes to SAG, Malek is the one to beat. Actors will see him as having the most challenging role. Can you imagine the risks of playing one of the most iconic singers of the twentieth century? Very, very frightening. (Yet Malek is magnifico.) Thespians will have special appreciation for the way that he nailed Mercury’s movements, mannerisms and speaking style – all of which required intense research and rehearsal. And while we don’t even know the category competition, Malek could enjoy a secret advantage. He’s an Emmy winner (and past SAG nominee) for the acclaimed television series “Mr. Robot.” Most SAG members work in TV; they may be inclined to vote for one of their own in a field filled with big screen stars.
As for the BAFTA, there doesn’t appear to be a hometown favorite like Oldman in “Darkest Hour” last year. (And there’s no male lead in “The Favourite.”) So how do we know which way the BAFTA winds will blow? Remember that Malek mimics a famous Brit in a picture co-produced and filmed in the United Kingdom, that also features a great deal of British talent. If BAFTA voters desire to remain loyal to the Queen, there’s no better way to go than with the man who is Queen.
4. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a box office smash.
Malek’s biggest Oscar obstacle is undoubtedly the mixed critical reaction to the film. If “Bohemian” had bombed, his awards chances would likely bite the dust. But the movie is surpassing expectations. It enjoyed a bigger opening weekend than “A Star is Born,” a film buoyed by TWO huge stars. As of this writing, “Rhapsody” is poised to cross the $100 million mark in the U.S. alone. Its CinemaScore “A” grade suggests good word-of-mouth for weeks to come. Most importantly, moviegoers come out of “Rhapsody” raving about Rami. (Carrying on as if nothing else matters.) The film’s success could make it easier for the Academy to honor the ingredient most responsible for the “Bohemian” bonanza.
5. He might benefit from being the only first-time nominee.
I know, this seems counterintuitive. Allow me to explain. Malek is 37 and has over a decade’s worth of film credits. He’s paid his dues (time after time.) He’s made mistakes – like last summer’s “Papillon” (but has committed no crime.) Nonetheless, some voters might wish to reward someone more “overdue” for the Best Actor crown.
There’s no shortage of contenders. Take Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born,” hoping to produce his first victory after three previous losses. There’s Christian Bale in the upcoming “Vice,” who could use a bookend to his supporting prize for “The Fighter.” Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book” and Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate” have seemingly been waiting an eternity for Oscar recognition.
And speaking of eternity, it’s been 45 years since the release of 1973 Best Picture winner “The Sting,” which earned the beloved Robert Redford his only acting nod to date. A trophy for his farewell performance in “The Old Man and the Gun” would be the perfect way to salute an old Hollywood favorite. In short, votes for the “overdue” could easily be split in a hotly contested category. If just enough Academy members were rocked by Rami, he could be the champion on Oscar’s big night.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.