The Best Actress race is the most crowded it has been in years. It’s so crowded that the Best Actress race might factor heavily into the Best Picture race, something that has been very rare in the past two or three decades. It happens but it’s rare. Last year’s winner, The Shape of Water, was the first Best Picture winner to have a lead actress nominee at all since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby.
The year started with fine, notable performances by Glenn Close in The Wife, Charlize Theron in Tully, Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place, Toni Collette for Hereditary, Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace. Festival season brought the Cannes winner, Joanna Kulig for Cold War, Lady Gaga for A Star is Born, Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me, Viola Davis for Widows, Olivia Colman for The Favourite, Nicole Kidman for Destroyer, Kiki Layne for If Beale Street Could Talk, Yalitza Aparicio for Roma. Then came Julia Roberts for Ben is Back.
This is, of course, leaving out a good many names that aren’t in the conversation for Oscar but maybe should be. The pundits circled a few names, dutifully making lists of which five they think have the best shot. Of course, nowadays that devolves into wish lists of who SHOULD be nominated, rather than who will be. Complicating matters is how the Golden Globes will divide between comedy and drama, and who will win each of these categories.
However, there are names popping up in the final part of the year that are also starting to make significant noise. Among them is Rosamund Pike for a Private War. The film, and her performance have been earning raves for her portrayal of a brave journalist who put her life on the line for work. It is one of those performances that keeps coming up in conversation but somehow doesn’t make any lists of predictions. That all could change if, say, Pike shows up on the Golden Globes list for Best Actress, Drama. Not an easy feat; it’s already packed.
Then there is Carey Mulligan for Wildlife. Mulligan is one of the most lauded performers of her generation, turning in one great performance after another. Wildlife is being talked about as maybe the best of her career. How does Carey Mulligan find a spot in the top five?
Felicity Jones stars in On the Basis of Sex, as a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg it’s hard not to imagine her making some noise in this age of RBG celebrating. Her film opens AFI Fest, and closing night is Mary Queen of Scots, featuring yet another potential lead actress nominee, Saoirse Ronan.
Last but not least, there is Emily Blunt again in Mary Poppins Returns. How is that one gonna go? How great will she be? Does she get in if it’s REALLY good? Maybe!
Much of the conversation around Best Actress has to do with who will win, who CAN win and who SHOULD win. All of that boils down to, as Guy Lodge cleverly put it on Twitter, Extremely Loud (Gaga) or Incredibly Close (Glenn Close). And that very well could be right. It is sure looking that way.
ON THE OTHER HAND – I just saw someone post that Olivia Colman is walking away with this thing for The Favourite. Olivia Colman is currently in the lead according to many pundits at Gold Derby, including Anne Thompson. The five nominees over there vary slightly from person to person but almost all include:
Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Viola Davis, Widows
And other name pop up here and there, like Nicole Kidman for Destroyer, Toni Collette for Hereditary. Here in the last gasp of Oscar season, there are more names to consider. The question is, will their performances be strong enough to punch a hole in the growing consensus? Hard to say.
The way I figure this race is that if Olivia Colman is genuinely a threat to Lady Gaga – then there is a good chance Glenn Close could benefit in a split vote. She would gain the support of those who would like to see her finally win, which could give her the edge in a competitive race. I continue to be of the mind that it’s Gaga’s to lose, however. That movie is just too big of a phenomenon right now and it will win at least one, if not many, of the top prizes.
What do you think, Oscarwatchers? Let’s make a poll!