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Viola Davis

Casey versus Denzel: Oscar's lead actor race is a dramatic study in contrasts

Casey versus Denzel: Oscar's lead actor race is a dramatic study in contrasts

On the surface, Lee Chandler, the protagonist of “Manchester by the Sea,” and Troy Maxson, the central character of “Fences,” wouldn’t seem to have much in common. Sprung from different playwriting imaginations, they are the products of vastly different American experiences.

If it weren’t that the actors portraying these characters delivered two of the finest film performances of the year, it is doubtful that Lee or Troy would be mentioned in the same breath. But they have been brought together by the counterintuitive magic of awards season.

Odds are that either Casey Affleck, who portrays Lee in Kenneth Lonergan’s scrupulous character study served on New England ice, or...

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