6. Ben Affleck
The movies: The Accountant (October 14), Live by Night (December 25 – limited)
We may very well have both of the Affleck brothers nominated for Oscars this year. Younger brother Casey is one of the favorites for his work in Manchester by the Sea, and Ben has had quite a year, with two especially juicy parts deserving note. In The Accountant, he plays an autistic math savant and assassin by night – judging by the spectacular trailer, it’s the eccentric thriller of the year.
Meanwhile, Affleck will get back to the director’s chair for period piece Live by Night, in which he also stars. Affleck has a brilliant track record as a director, of course, and Live by Night seems like a knockout, the tale of a man involved with organized crime in the Prohibition era.
7. Kristen Stewart
The movies: Certain Women (October 14), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (November 11)
A lot of people still see Kristen Stewart as the inexpressive lead in the Twilight movies, but time has shown that this 26 year-old actress is much more than that. It’s no wonder that Olivier Assayas, the guy who directed her to a César win in Clouds of Sils Maria, says that she’s the best actress of her generation – the pair’s new collaboration, although, titled Personal Shopper, won’t debut until next year.
In 2016, she has a highly praised performance in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, alongside fellow actress on this list Michelle Williams, and another in Ang Lee’s enigma of a film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Though certainly wonderful, the trailer for the film doesn’t give up a lot, but we know that Stewart plays the main character’s sister.
8. Aaron Eckhart
The movies: Sully (September 9), Bleed for This (November 18)
Aaron Eckhart so often makes egregiously bad choices (Olympus Has Fallen, I, Frankenstein, etc.), it’s easy to forget how great of an actor he is. This year, he didn’t let us. Supporting Tom Hanks through one of the year’s most-seen and loved dramas, Sully, he proved he can be an utility player, and an efficient and distinctive one at that.
The upcoming boxing biopic Bleed for This could’ve been Miles Teller’s show, but not unlike Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man, Eckhart sequesters the film from his hands, building a quite unforgettable boxing coach, and proving himself to be the best part about a flawed film. As Giamatti himself can attest, that’s right in the Academy’s wheelhouse.
9. David Oyelowo
The movie: Queen of Katwe (September 30), A United Kingdom (November 25)
Since his outright snub for Selma back in 2015, David Oyelowo has been laying relatively low, but now he’s in two big movies that have earned the respect of critics back. In Queen of Katwe, he plays opposite Lupita Nyong’o as the mentor of a child with an uncanny ability for chess. In A United Kingdom, he’s an African prince that causes international outrage after marrying a white woman from London (Rosamund Pike).
Like Selma, Queen of Katwe and A United Kingdom deal with race issues and are directed by women of color – Mira Nair and Amma Assante, respectively. Like in Selma, Oyelowo plays real-life figures with depth, warmth and brilliantly flawed humanity. Like for Selma, he’ll probably be missing from the Oscar nominations this year. It’s a shame.
10. Ryan Gosling
The movies: The Nice Guys (May 20), La La Land (December 16)
One of the few really great films out this summer, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys once again put Ryan Gosling’s comic talents to test, and he passed with flying colors. His chemistry with Russell Crowe is the life and heart of the film, and he expertly navigates the complicated tonal imbalances of Black’s script.
At the end of the year, we’ll get to see him in a vastly different role, in Damien Chazelle’s first straightforward musical La La Land. If you take the critics words, it’s the best and most important musical movie since Moulin Rouge! and Chicago revived the genre last decade, and Gosling’s charismatic, romantic, deeply felt and balanced performance is a big part of it.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.