Gold Standard: Is Denzel Washington on his way to a third Oscar?

Denzel Washington takes home a SAG Award for his part in "Fences."
Denzel Washington takes home a SAG Award for his part in “Fences.”
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Is Denzel Washington now the front-runner for the lead actor Oscar? Should actors use their platforms to espouse their political views? And could Isabelle Huppert pull off a surprise Oscar win for lead actress?

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

I’m Glenn Whipp, The Times’ awards columnist and your newsletter host.



Casey Affleck had won countless critics prizes, along with a Golden Globe, for his aching, inward turn in “Manchester by the Sea,” making him the default favorite in the lead actor Oscar race.

Then at the SAG Awards, Denzel Washington took the lead actor prize for his towering, dialogue-devouring turn in “Fences” and, suddenly, the contest for that particular Oscar is up for grabs.

As I noted in my SAG Awards wrap and analysis, the last 12 actors to win SAG’s lead honor went on to take the Oscar. (The exception: Johnny Depp for the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. Sean Penn won the Oscar for “Mystic River.”) It’s hard to argue against that kind of a streak, particularly when Washington’s showy performance (perfectly in step with the outsized character he’s playing) is the kind of a turn that wins Oscars. (Hoo-ah!)

Other SAG Awards takeaways: Viola Davis (“Fences”) remains an Oscar lock, and Emma Stone (“La La Land”) and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) aren’t too far behind. On the television side, first-year series “The Crown” and “Stranger Things” received early boosts heading into this year’s Emmys.

You can find complete Times’ coverage of the SAG Awards here, including backstage photos, interviews from the red carpet and press room reports.

The cast of "Stranger Things" is shown at the 2017 SAG Awards.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)


Anyone tuning in to the SAG Awards on Sunday thinking they might be escaping news headlines for a couple of hours was quickly disabused of that notion as winner after winner used the platform to speak out against President Trump’s immigration ban.

“This immigrant ban is a blemish and is un-American,” said “Veep’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the evening’s first award recipient, getting the ball rolling.

Just about every SAG Awards winner had something to say, with the peak performance belonging to “Stranger Things” cast member David Harbour, who delivered a fiery, three-minute speech, ably assisted by co-star Winona Ryder’s grab bag of facial expressions.

Was it too much politics? I certainly heard from readers who thought so. Times film writer Josh Rottenberg and I wrote an article about this very thing, the tricky place A-listers find themselves in when it comes to talking about Trump. You can read that piece here.

Isabelle Huppert has been nominated for an Oscar for her role in "Elle."
(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)


You can’t say we haven’t been on board the Isabelle Huppert bandwagon from the beginning. The Times spoke to the French acting legend, who earned her first Oscar nomination for her provocative turn in “Elle,” at the Telluride Film Festival, then, a week later at the Toronto Film Festival. Times film writer Mark Olsen wrote a piece in November about the collaboration between Huppert and “Elle” director Paul Verhoeven, pegged to a tribute at the AFI Fest, and then revisited the actress’ work in this week’s Envelope cover story. The Times also hosted an evening with her as part of our Envelope Independent Screening Series.

So, yes, we’re fans. As my colleague, Mr. Olsen, writes: Huppert “has long had a reputation as one of the most fearsome and fearless actresses in the world. There has always been something both steely and vulnerable about her screen presence, an ice queen willing to show her cracks.”

It’s wonderful that the Oscar nomination points new fans toward her outstanding body of work. You could spend years immersing yourself in it.


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