We’re just about to head into the thick of it, with the meat of the season still yet to be seen. Jenelle Reilly correctly predicted Best Actress last year and the year before right around this time, and this year she has selected Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water. No one has yet seen that performance but Jenelle predicted Brie Larson and Emma Stone without having seen their films either — one might say she has a knack for it. Wouldn’t you know, I can’t find the exact tweet but I did respond to it, predicting Judi Dench would take it instead. Others are predicting Annette Bening or Jennifer Lawrence or Glenn Close. The Best Actress race is exciting this year, at least so far, until someone sticks a fork in some of them and they’re done.
I asked Twitter which performances people were anticipating and the top was a three-way tie between Jennifer Lawrence for Mother, Kate Winslet for Wonder Wheel, and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Here are mine and I’d love to hear what yours are.
- Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Yes, Jenelle Reilly could turn out to be correct about this wordless performance by Hawkins that is already looks to be a heartbreaker from the trailer alone. Hawkins plays a brave young woman who forms an attachment with a creature who is captured and studied. This film, like Okja and Beatrice at Dinner is one of those that confronts head-on humanity’s treatment of animals. It is, no doubt, anchored by Hawkins, another actress who always turns in one surprising performance after another.
- Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul. Thing about Dench is that she always brings it and then some. I can’t think of another actress so consistently surprising and mesmerizing as her. While I’m sure the film will be plagued, as all of them will be, with think pieces and analysis that pick them apart — no one will be able to say a thing about Dench’s Queen. This much I know for sure.
- Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Lawrence in Mother. While of course Jennifer Lawrence will no doubt be brilliant in the lead, dipping into the perverse as Darren Aronofsky will direct her to do, but in a supporting role Pfeiffer, with dark material in her hands once again after playing Catwoman, is the one I’m really curious about. I have no idea whether it will be a great film or how good she will be, but I’m most looking forward to it.
- Kate Winslet in Wonder Wheel. Winslet is an actress I’m always interested in. I believe her to be among the most daring we’ve ever seen. Even though Woody Allen’s work can sometimes be grating, there is no doubt that he occasionally strikes gold with great female performances, like Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.
- Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This might turn out to be one of those all-timers. McDormand again nails it with each performance, but she’s especially good playing an alpha female with a vendetta, as she will apparently be doing here.
- Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game. We know Chastain is up for the challenge of Sorkin dialogue. Some can do it, some can’t. She will be one of those who can. Watching her in a film like this, where she’s at the center and she’s playing a fighter, it’s like watching dry weeds eaten up by wildfire. So yeah, looking forward to it.
- Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. This might be one of those magical alignments when perfect role meets perfect actress . When was the last time we saw Bening play the kind of character she digs into as she did in The Grifters? Well, that was who Grahame was back in the day. If Bening taps into some of that, it could be unbelievably great.
- Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in The Papers. Everything Streep does becomes something that is immediately highly anticipated. She is one of the best, if not the best, actor currently working, so whatever she does is worth the price of admission.
- Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in The Battle of the Sexes. We already know Steve Carell is going to be brilliantly funny and the two of them together will be fireworks. But Stone’s work could show a dimension from her we’ve not seen before, at least that’s what appears to be the case from the trailer.
- Rooney Mara in Mary Magdalene. Mara loves to push it right to the edge, and here, with Joaquin Phoenix who knows how far that will be. She’s always one to watch.
- Glenn Close in The Wife – This Meg Wolitzer book is one for the ages, about a woman who sticks by her husband’s side from college onward and who finally has a change of heart near the end of it all is a brilliantly written character.
- Denzel Washington Roman Israel, Esq. Oh Denzel, still the one. I believe him to be the greatest living actor so, as the Dylan song goes, I’ll see him in anything, so I’ll stand in line.
- Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. We welcome Churchill’s return, sorely needed in weary world, embodied by one of the finest actors who has never yet won an Oscar. Oldman’s Churchill, as far as we can tell, is pitch perfect.
- Daniel Day Lewis in Phantom Thread. On the surface, and since so little is known, there isn’t anything about this that seems particularly interesting except that it’s directed and shot by Paul Thomas Anderson, and it stars Daniel Day-Lewis. Lewis has declared this to be his last film but you know that’s probably not true. Great publicity, though.
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse in The Current War. Both of these guys can make anything interesting, even the story of wiring America for electrical power.
- Joaquin Phoenix, Mary Magdalene. Phoenix as Jesus? A brilliant actor who has no problem going to the dark places, even when playing Jesus.
- Matt Damon in Downsizing, Matt Damon in Suburbicon. Damon is such an underrated actor but he’s always best when he’s morphing himself into an obtuse character. Both of these roles seem perfect for him.
- Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman. A balls-out showman playing a balls-out showman. Watching Jackman do this might be one of the greatest things we’ll see all year.
- Chadwick Boseman, Marshall. Playing Thurgood Marshall will be no easy task. Such a complex man who faced criticism from the black community for being someone who compromised, and from the white community because racism. Not only looking forward to this performance but to the whole film.
- Ali Fazal, Victoria and Abdul. Actors of color are few and far between this year but that’s not the only reason to pay attention to this actor and this performance. In a volley with Judi Dench in a film directed by Stephen Frears? A rare opportunity to shine.
- Liam Neeson, Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. Can Liam Neeson win an Oscar? Maybe. Here’s hoping. As a Watergate fanatic I’m looking forward to this, of course, almost more than any other thing.
- Michael Fassbender in The Snowman. Crime thrillers need a pedigree to catch the Academy’s attention and Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation Jo Nesbø’s Norwegian noir has it. Alfredson guided Gary Oldman to a nomination 6 years ago with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and he’s working again with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Straughan so Fassbender’s role should be layered and rich.
That’s my best guess, leaving out films people have already seen like Call Me By Your Name, Mudbound, The Florida Project, etc. These films people have seen. I’m wondering about films people haven’t seen. Your turn!