Last year was one of the strangest in Oscar history in terms of Best Actress and Best Picture because even with ten Best Picture nominees, there was not a single one with a corresponding Best Actress nomination. That is highly unusual and will most likely not happen again this year. One explanation for the anomaly of 2021 is the way the nominations were announced without a clear consensus among precursors, not to mention how the BAFTA selected their nominees with a jury interfering with what their members may have preferred. There was not a single BAFTA actress nominee that was also an Oscar nominee. And of course, the Golden Globes are still trying to find their way back after being canceled by the court of public opinion and then canceled for real by the network.
But this year, the calendar has some wiggle room. Most notable is the time span between the DGA nominations and the end of Oscar voting. That is going to make some difference. Voters tend to follow a consensus that’s being shaped already. If there is no consensus, the nominations can sometimes be all over the place.
Here’s how it’s looking on our calendar so far:
January 8th, SAG voting ends (so sometime around this time)
January 11, DGA announces nominees
January 12, Producers Guild announces nominees
December 15, 2022 Oscar voting ends
While Oscar voters will have more time to look at a consensus, the SAG, DGA, and PGA are dropping roughly near the same dates. But the Oscar nominations will look less surprising, given the lag between dates. Last year, it all happened on the same day, January 27th – DGA, PGA, WGA, ACE, and the beginning of Oscar voting.
Next week, we’ll get our first look at the Venice Film Festival lineup. Toronto will announce after that, and finally, we’ll get the Telluride list the day before things begin on September 1. Variety has done a preview of sorts, predicting what titles are likely to show up. This may or may not come to pass, but bouncing off this story, these are the films and performances we’re likely to see show up there:
Cate Blanchett, Tar
Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry, Darling
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Trace Lysette, Monica
Greta Gerwig, White Noise (probably supporting)
Trace Lysette would be the first transgender actress to be nominated in the category and I don’t think awards voters will pass up that opportunity (unless supporting?). Put it this way: it’s going to have to be REALLY bad for them not to hop aboard the making history train. That seems as likely as anything.
That lineup, though, looks incredibly strong already. It only tells part of the story.
The strongest contender right now is Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once – it is a fully realized transformative work, and Yeoh’s best probably in that she’s able to showcase her range with such a wide array of talents throughout. She’s also built an incredibly well-respected career over the decades, and has not yet received an Oscar nod. The film is fast becoming a favorite on Film Twitter. Furthermore, it has also captured the attention of various other people in the real world who aren’t as plugged in, and has made an impressive haul at the box office so far, $68 million domestic.
Yeoh will likely be the favorite of the film critics, which seems to indicate she has a spot carved out for her in the Best Actress race. There is a slight caveat: that it’s not a movie for everyone. Unless they’re securely seated in a movie theater, for some voters there might be an inclination to pause the screener or turn it off altogether. Yeoh’s performance should still be something they can immediately recognize, even if they don’t have patience to see how gorgeously the payoff comes together in the final scenes.
Heading over to Erik Anderson’s Predictions for Best Actress, which are recent, he has the following five:
- Margot Robbie – Babylon (Paramount Pictures)
- Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
- Olivia Colman – Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures)
- Naomie Ackie – I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Columbia Pictures)
- Cate Blanchett – TÁR (Focus Features)
And then he has the following as the rest of the list of possibles:
- Regina King – Shirley (Netflix) – 2022 or 2023?
- Helen Mirren – Golda (Bleecker Street)
- Carey Mulligan – She Said (Universal Pictures) – lead or supporting?
- Ana De Armas – Blonde (Netflix)
- Viola Davis – The Woman King (Columbia Pictures)
- Danielle Deadwyler – Till (UAR/Orion)
- Emma Corrin – Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Netflix)
- Anamaria Vartolomei – Happening (IFC Films)
- Jessica Chastain – The Good Nurse (Netflix)
- Jennifer Lawrence – Causeway (Apple Original Films)
- Tang Wei – Decision to Leave (MUBI)
- Lily Gladstone – Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple Original Films) – lead or supporting?
- Vanessa Kirby – Napoleon (Apple Original Films) – lead or supporting? / 2022 or 2023?
- Rooney Mara – Women Talking (MGM/UAR) – lead or supporting?
- Greta Gerwig – White Noise (Netflix) – lead or supporting?
To Erik’s list, I would have to add:
Emma Stone, Poor Things
Michelle Williams, The Fablemans (but is it supporting?)
Sally Hawkins, The Lost King
Annette Bening, Nyad
It is obviously too soon to tell which of these will pop. We have a lot of movies to see. When it comes to Best Actress, I often use the criteria of three:
Likability of star
Likability of role
Likability of film
I use this for Best Actress mainly, though I suppose it could apply to the men – it seems that women have to struggle, always, with a likability problem. It’s harder to earn universal admiration for women, I do not know why. Just look at Vice President Kamala Harris. A winner doesn’t have to have all three of these factors – the least important appears to be “likability of film,” as we saw with last year’s winner, Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. But of course, it helps. Frances McDormand had the trifecta with Nomadland.
The likability of the star is, to me, the most important when it comes to Best Actress. That means when I look at Erik’s list; a few names jump out at me that I would prioritize — popular, well-known, well-liked actresses:
Margot Robbie, Babylon (not yet won)
Annette Bening, Nyed (not yet won)
Cate Blanchett, Tar (won Best Actress, Best Supporting)
Olivia Colman, Emperor of Light (won Best Actress)
Jennifer Lawrence, Causeway (won Best Actress)
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere
Viola Davis, The Woman King (won Best Supporting Actress)
Jessica Chastain, The Good Nurse (won Best Actress)
Regina King, Shirley (won Best Supporting Actress)
Helen Mirren, Golda (won Best Actress)
Carey Mulligan, She Said
Ana De Armas, Blonde
Greta Gerwig, White Noise (but most likely supporting)
Sally Hawkins, The Lost King
Next, we look at the likability of roles – that would be they either play a well-known and beloved real-life person, or their character is someone likable, even if not well known. These would be:
Regina King (Shirley Chisholm)
Helen Mirren (Golda Meir)
Naomi Ackie (Whitney Houston)
Ana De Armas (Marilyn Monroe)
Lily Gladstone (Mollie Burkhart)
Danielle Deadwyler (Mamie Till-Mobley)
Carey Mulligan (Megan Twohey) / Zoey Kazan (Jodi Kanter)
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere
Viola Davis, [(Nanisca tribe)
Michelle Williams (Steven Spielberg’s mom)
Annette Bening (Diana Nyad)
Obviously, we can’t yet know the “likability of the movie”, except with Yeoh.
So, which of these cross over?
Ana De Armas
Of course, it’s way too early to be deciding this. But it’s interesting to see how things line up this early in the game. Just for fun, though, let’s look at which of these seem Best Picture friendly — obviously, it’s a complete mystery at this juncture.
Margot Robbie and Babylon (director: Damien Chazelle)
Michelle Yeoh and Everything Everywhere (directors: the Daniels)
Lily Gladstone and Killers of the Flower Moon (director: Martin Scorsese)
Carey Mulligan/Zoey Kazan and She Said (director: Maria Schrader)
Cate Blanchett and Tar (director: Todd Field)
Olivia Colman and Emperor of Light (director: Sam Mendes)
Michelle Williams and The Fabelmans (director: Steven Spielberg)
Emma Stone and Poor Things (director: Yorgos Lanthimos)
Sally Hawkins and The Lost King (director: Stephen Frears)
Viola Davis and The Woman King (director: Gina Prince-Bythewood)
Does it help if there is a potential Best Actor for a matched set? Yes. So let’s look at that:
Brad Pit + Margot Robbie and Babylon (director: Damien Chazelle)
Leonardo DiCaprio + Lily Gladstone and Killers of the Flower Moon (director: Martin Scorsese)
Liam Neeson + Olivia Colman and Emperor of Light (director: Sam Mendes)
Adam Driver + Greta Gerwig (though likely supporting) and White Noise (director: Noah Baumbach)
Seth Rogan + Michelle Williams and The Fablemans (director: Steven Spielberg)
Obviously Best Picture tends to be driven by Best Actor and we’ve got strong contenders there, without a doubt:
Austin Butler, Elvis
Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Bardo
Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins
Hugh Jackman, The Son
Brendan Frazier, The Whale
Thirteen Lives, Joel Edgerton
Best Picture will always be down to Best Actor more than Best Actress. But the one thing we really need in any Best Actress race — or really, any major Oscar win — is an “Oscar Story.” What is their Oscar story that brought them to this point? That helps voters feel motivated to push them into the winner’s spot, even beyond, sometimes, the “likability triad.”
For instance, Frances McDormand was largely credited with pushing the inclusivity rider that helped get Nomadland made, as there was suddenly much more of a focus on women and directing. But beyond that, she was headed for her third Best Actress Oscar – which isn’t usually a strong motivator. Last year Jessica Chastain had never won, despite having been nominated many times before. But beyond that, she was emotionally invested in bringing the Tammy Faye story to life.
Scanning this year’s slate so far, it’s hard to tell right now who has the strongest Oscar backstory. But a few of them do:
Viola Davis has never won Best Actress. And, twice, she won the Screen Actors Guild prize and lost Best Actress to someone winning her third Oscar for lead.
Michelle Yeoh is way overdue for Oscar recognition.
Lily Gladstone would be the first Native American actress to win.
Trace Lysette would be the first transgender actress to win.
We are still too early to know what the “Oscar stories” will be. This is just a first look at the race. Until next time.