So is the competition among Best Actor contenders a little weak this year, as a colleague recently suggested? When you get past Casey Affleck‘s performance in Manchester By The Sea (locked) and Denzel Washington‘s in Fences (likely), maybe.

The others comprise a roster of approvable-but-not-greats — Tom Hanks in Sully (sober, believable, sturdy), Ryan Gosling in La La land (skillful and affecting but the film belongs to Emma Stone), Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge (a respectable if “actorish” performance), Joel Edgerton in Loving (not up to Ruth Negga‘s level), Dev Patel in Lion (a decent turn but not as good as the little kid who stars in the first third) and Robert De Niro in The Comedian (which no one has seen).

Jonah Hill as former arms dealer Efraim Diveroli in Todd Phillips’ War Dogs.

Remember War Dogs? I know — not serious enough, released in August, a Todd Phillips film, etc. But if you ask me Jonah Hill was a remarkable stand-out as 20something arms dealer and stone-cold sociopath Efraim Diveroli. Not one of those “maybe” or “pretty good” performances, but extra-level. Really.

From my 8.17.16 review: “Hill’s rascally, conniving performance is the big reason to see War Dogs this weekend. Jonah, Jonah, Jonah…back in Superbad territory but with less schtick and colder blood. The highs, lows and demonic detours of a sociopathic, three-card-monte hustler!

“Jonah is in charge of the surge moments. Half the time you’re thinking ‘okay, this is good, moving along but where’s Jonah?’ or, you know, ‘what’s Jonah’s next big bullshit play gonna be’?

We’ve all read that film is a tale about actual 20something arms dealers who got rich back in the mid aughts but were then busted for fraud. It’s based on Guy Lawson‘s “Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History“.

“Jonah’s Efraim is the kind of guy who’s always performing, selling and scheming. The kind who never deals straight cards but who can usually con-talk almost anyone into saying “yes” or at least “okay, maybe.” Or weasel his way out of a jam. I hate guys like this in real life, but I love watching them operate from a theatre seat.

“There’s a dinner scene, David and his wife Iz (Ana de Armas) and four or five friends, and David mentions that he’s working with Efraim and then a woman tells him he might want to watch his back because Efraim reportedly stole money for an uncle or something like that. A debate ensues about whether or not Efraim is a bad guy, etc. All of a sudden Efraim strolls into the room and announces ‘hey, it’s me, the sketchy guy’ or words to that effect. And then some dorky guy, looking to obscure the mood, mumbles ‘hey, man’ to Efraim, and Jonah instantly smells the bullshit and imitates the guy to a T — ‘Hey, man.'”