The Best Actress race for most of the year seemed locked into five: Glenn Close for The Wife, Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born, Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me, Olivia Colman for The Favourite, and Viola Davis for Widows. But Widows and Davis had seemed to be forgotten by many of the award nominations leading up to the BAFTAs, including the Screen Actors Guild. In her place, some believed another actress might reside, like Emily Blunt for Mary Poppins Returns, Rosamund Pike for A Private War, or Nicole Kidman for Destroyer. It was a packed fifth slot, with barely any wiggle room. Davis, however, does seem potentially ready to take that fifth slot at the Oscars if the BAFTA voters have any major influence.
Heading into the Golden Globes, Lady Gaga seemed to be the unstoppable winner. Granted, much of this had to do with how much love there is for Lady Gaga overall, especially online and especially among those who cover the Oscar race. Most were ignoring the two obvious factors that might prevent her from winning: that she would be a first-time nominee and that she comes from the world of music. Both of those things could be obstacles in what might have otherwise been an easier win. Had Lady Gaga been put in the Musical/Comedy category, she would have won, probably.
But then something happened. That something was Glenn Close finally winning. Although Close has won Globes and a SAG for television, in a career spanning 40 years, she’s never won a single Globe, SAG, or Oscar for film. That’s quite something for an actress of her skill and experience. So when she won, she brought the magic with her at the podium. You can’t buy that kind of publicity — because there was such authentic joy in her win, everyone felt happy for her, probably even the die hard Lady Gaga fans. To see someone who has worked so long and hard at her craft reap a much deserved award is really the best thing anyone can hope for when we sit down to watch these long and often unbearable awards shows. When you know someone is going to win, that’s one thing. But when someone you didn’t think would win finally and actually does? That’s magic.
That means that Glenn Close is our frontrunner, at least for now. If she wins the SAG, it’s a done deal. She does have competition in both Olivia Colman for The Favourite and Lady Gaga still for A Star Is Born. The reason is that if A Star Is Born isn’t going to win Best Picture (maybe it will, who knows) then Lady Gaga could theoretically be the film’s big win. That means, though, people will have to watch Glenn Close lose and that, I think, is something no one wants to see.
There are usually three paths to an Oscar win for a female. For starters, it is much easier to win when you are young and in your prime than when you are past 40. That means winning when you are hitting a kind of peak, or everyone falls in love with you for a season, is easier than it is after you’ve been acting for a while, been nominated for a while, and are taken for granted. It’s much harder to pull in a win at that stage. Emma Stone in La La Land, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, Brie Larson in Room — they hit their peak at just the right moment to win. The other way to win is to simply give the best performance. Like THE BEST performance, hands down — one of those unequivocal performances that no one can deny, especially when given by a hot young up and comer (Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose) or a respected vet (Helen Mirren in The Queen). The third way to win is to be so overdue that you can win even for a film that isn’t broadly liked overall (Julianne Moore in Still Alice).
Glenn Close has been nominated for an Oscar six times without winning. Her performance in Fatal Attraction remains one of the most memorable and iconic of all time. While it’s possible that she could still lose in the final act, after her speech at the Globes, one must consider her the frontrunner.
But what of that fifth slot? Does Viola Davis take it? Nicole Kidman? Toni Collette? That will remain a mystery until Oscar nominations are announced.