Best Actress remains a mystery. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of slam dunk winner at the moment, just vague notions of various narratives at play. One narrative has the professional, Glenn Close in The Wife, finally winning after an astonishing career that has produced six nominations but no wins. Another narrative is that the success of A Star Is Born will, at the very least, propel Lady Gaga to a win even if the performance itself is green. Great at times but also a feature film debut, which isn’t usually an easy road to an Oscar win. It can happen but it’s rare. No, Gaga’s win would not be for the performance, although as it happens, neither is Close’s. Both would be winning for different reasons, reasons that are enhanced by the desire TO SEE either of them win.
However, we might get an early clue with the Golden Globes.
When finding your Best Actress winner, you need a SAG nomination at the very least. It helps to have won the SAG but a nomination matters more than even a win. Has anyone ever won the Oscar in this category without winning a Globe or a SAG since SAG began? The answer to that, of course, is no. Kate Winslet’s win for The Reader was after she was put in supporting at the SAG, but she technically she still had a nomination.
Has any Best Actress won without winning the Globe in either category since SAG began? Only once. Halle Berry won the SAG and then the Oscar, but did not win the Globe for Drama because Sissy Spacek did for In the Bedroom. Back then it was possible to change horses midstream, prior to the Oscar ceremony being pushed up by one month, and thus eliminating a lot of the last minute rallying that sometimes goes on. Since the date change, though, no. That means whoever wins the Globe in either category has the best chance of also winning the SAG and the Oscar.
That means we must first focus on who will win the Golden Globe. There did not used to be such a strong need to have contenders put into Drama. In a fair world, A Star Is Born and Can You Ever Forgive Me would not be in Drama but would be in Musical/Comedy, where they should be. Gaga would win in that category, Glenn Close would win in the Drama category, and the showdown would be on. Confusing it all greatly is that now we have to watch the showdown between Close and Gaga in Drama and Melissa McCarthy has an even harder climb to a win. She could have aced the Comedy category.
As it is now, the big contest in Musical/Comedy will likely be between Olivia Colman in The Favourite (not a comedy but smart to place it here) and Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns. Both have a Globe and a SAG nom. But we don’t know if Blunt will make the jump to Oscar, though we expect Colman will. Blunt appears to be more Globe friendly, but it’s hard to know how this win will go. Colman has the much more serious role but Blunt is in an actual musical and the Globes love them their musicals. This is a toss-up, with the slight edge to Colman being that The Favourite has more awards cred at the moment.
On the Drama side, you will see the first showdown between Lady Gaga and Glenn Close. It is really hard to imagine Gaga not taking that award. That will likely be her first big win. It’s hard to imagine them inviting Lady Gaga and not giving her the win.
Complicating things even further is that, to date, Glenn Close has never won a SAG award. Nine nominations in film and television and not a single win. That leads me to think they will choose her and not Lady Gaga. On the other hand, A Star Is Born leads the nominations. So it’s really hard to imagine it not cleaning up somewhere. Another toss-up. But if our preliminary predictions are right, the four frontrunners to win Best Actress at the Globes would be:
Lady Gaga vs. Glenn Close
Emily Blunt vs. Olivia Colman
Of course, should any of those four NOT win, then that will be very interesting indeed.
In terms of nominations, can an actress land in the race without having either a Globe or a SAG nomination? Yes. It’s happened a few times before:
2003 — Samantha Morton, In America
2007 — Laura Linney, The Savages
2012 — Emmanuelle Riva, Amour/Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild
2014 — Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
2015 — Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Note: Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for a SAG in supporting in Whale Rider, like Kate Winslet.
That means borderline contenders like Viola Davis in Widows or Julia Roberts in Ben is Back definitely have a shot to crack to the five, as do Globe nominees like Rosamund Pike or Nicole Kidman or Elsie Fisher. We also have Toni Collette, who has won a number of critics awards so far for her work in Hereditary. Although she missed both the Globes and SAG, Collette pulled off her first Oscar nomination without Globes or SAG nods almost 20 years ago playing another bereaved mother in a horror film, so you can never really say never.
I really hope that eventually studios will relax the need to have their films and contenders be in Drama to be “taken seriously.” I think it’s a mistake. Just because Twitter has a fit about the word “comedy” doesn’t mean everything has to be tossed. The Globes matter because they present a unique publicity opportunity for a potential winner to audition for their win. This is true across the board in every category. People watch and think yes, that was the right win or no, that win felt really awful. It doesn’t matter if the win comes from the comedy category or not. A win is a win. A stage moment is a stage moment.