Should and will win:
“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”
Role: Cliff Booth, stunt double and wingman for a TV star.
In his favor: His effortless cool is the perfect foil to DiCaprio, and he makes his unglamorous life appealing — who wouldn’t want to hang with Cliff, his dog and his Kraft dinner? Bonus points for his shirtless fix-it skills. (Globes winner/S/B)
Then again: Nothing — everybody loves Brad.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Role: Mister Rogers.
In his favor: Has there ever been a more perfect melding of actor and character? Hanks slips into the role as easily as he does the cardigan. But with the measured cadences, the gentle tilt of the head, this is no phoned-in act that coasts on our affection. (G/S/B)
Then again: We never quite forget we’re watching Tom Hanks.
“The Two Popes”
Role: Pope Benedict XVI, who confers with future Pope Francis as he considers stepping down.
In his favor: Hopkins has the more difficult role, lending humanity to a man whom the filmmakers want us to dislike. His halting confusion over the state of the world and the church is palpable. (G/B)
Then again: It’s the less showy of the two performances.
Role: Teamsters honcho/unsolved mystery Jimmy Hoffa.
In his favor: Pacino tones down his usual bombast as the charismatic, uncompromising union boss. He’s hotheaded, sure, but manifests a tender fatherliness that endears him to a young Peggy Sheeran — and to us. (G/S/B)
Then again: He and Joe Pesci could split “The Irishman” voting bloc.
Role: Philly Mafia boss Russell Bufalino.
In his favor: All purring menace, this is a Pesci you’ve never seen. His quietly lethal pronouncements — “It is what it is” — make your blood run cold. It’s a forceful comeback for a guy who hasn’t been onscreen much in 20 years. (G/S/B)
Then again: He and Pacino could split “The Irishman” voting bloc.
Missed the cut:
Song Kang Ho
Role: Kim Ki-taek, patriarch of a struggling Korean family.
Why he deserved a nod: Lumpish and hangdog, he is more child than parent. But he cunningly never lets you forget he’s the glue that holds this clan — and the story — together. When he snaps, all hell breaks loose.
Then again: This is a true ensemble effort.