This article originally appeared on The Film Experience
Will Smith has had his name chiseled into the Best Actor Oscar since we first laid eyes on the trailer for King Richard. It’s a foregone conclusion, no need to pay attention to anyone else. As with Best Actor last season and Best Actress 2018, everyone knows who is going to win, so it doesn’t matter who the Academy votes for! If your memory is fogging up, it’s because those “foregone conclusion” frontrunners in 2018 and 2020 did not, in fact, take home the trophy.
2021 may well repeat history as Andrew Garfield campaigns, charms, and web-slings his way into the conversation to take home Best Actor on Oscar night. Let’s break down the reasons why Garfield could walk away with the trophy…
The THR Actor’s Roundtable, relentless interviews, talk-show appearances – the man is putting in the work. It might be off-putting to some critics and fans, but the Academy loves when an actor shows them how much they want it. More than anything, the older members of the Academy want their awards to mean something and a young actor showing how much it means to them translates to voters.
He’s absolutely everywhere. You can find him at the aforementioned roundtable, talking about his love for Cobra Kai, how much he values being Jewish, or just waxing poetic about Lin-Manuel Miranda during Tick, Tick…BOOM!
Charm, charm, charm
Just look at that handsome man! Not only does the Academy love some eye candy up on the stage, but Garfield has also shown his innate ability to be eloquent. The last thing the ceremony needs is someone who gets up there and stammers on, which would not be a problem for Garfield.
Even though his evangelical preacher role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye doesn’t exactly invite sympathy, he’s relentlessly charming. Plus, his return to the role of Peter Parker was almost completely about charisma. Speaking of…
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now a monster smash in a time where blockbusters aren’t supposed to be happening at all. NWH became the highest-grossing film of 2021 in only 14 days of release with $572 million. That’s more than double the second-place film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. As of this writing, it’s now the ninth-highest domestic grossing film of all time. That kind of money and popularity is hard to deny. Sony agrees because the studio is pushing the film for Best Picture (Nathaniel got into that two weeks ago).
Who got the best reviews from the film? Garfield. Not only did it give his character redemption from the tepid reaction to his two outings as the web-slinger, but his performance added a level of closure to that series’ best and worst elements.
Will Smith vulnerability
When King Richard debuted, a bevy of journalists exclaimed it to be the Best Picture frontrunner, along with Smith. Since the film’s November release, the buzz has definitely dissipated. The only lasting precursor attention (so far) from King Richard has been Aunjanue Ellis.
As with Best Actor 2020 or Best Actress 2018. It’s easy to make fun of those “Anonymous Oscar Voter” pieces, but there is something to them. In both cases, the voters felt like the race was a foregone conclusion and a coronation to the assumed victor (Glenn Close and Chadwick Boseman). With that in mind, they each voted for the performance they felt more passion towards (Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins). Come Oscar night, the assumed victor went home empty-handed. Don’t be surprised when this year’s pieces come out and you get “Will Smith is going to win, but I voted for Andrew Garfield”
He’s REALLY good in Tick, Tick…BOOM!
It would be one thing if Garfield was pulling a Rami Malek and rallying votes for a film/performance with sketchy quality, but Tick, Tick…BOOM! won near-universal acclaim from both critics and audiences. Not only is the film great, but Garfield is also great in it. And unlike Malek, Garfield does his own singing.
Outside of the musical elements, Garfield embodies Broadway composer Jonathan Larsen with dripping desperation but eternal hopefulness. And like a true great leading performance, he doesn’t outshine his co-stars, he enhances each with easy chemistry, whether it’s Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, or Vanessa Hudgens.
I personally view the 2021 Best Actor race as a competition between Garfield and Benedict Cumberbatch. Sound off on what you think.