Almost every Oscar winner has an “Oscar Story.” Sometimes, they just land in the race and win, like Brie Larson for Room. But much of the time, they are winning for a reason or for a movie. When Olivia Colman won in an upset, it was really the big win for The Favourite, which had multiple nominations, including Best Picture and Director. Plenty of films have had multiple nominations and gone home empty-handed, but in a case like that, Colman was so good in the film (though a supporting part, I thought) and they really wanted to “give it something.” Had they awarded Glenn Close instead, it would have been to satisfy her being overdue for so long. But in the end, being overdue was not a strong enough motivator for voters to back Close over Colman.
Oscar stories can sometimes be that a beloved actress is well overdue (Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock), but it is often their “story” within a season. Sometimes you have it all together in one, as with Helen Mirren and The Queen: a beloved actress who is long overdue and in a great movie. In general, being overdue might not be enough unless another factor is involved.
Other Oscar stories can be something like Jennifer Lawrence as America’s sweetheart for a season, or someone being snubbed for an earlier award. Sometimes you’re the best option in a year where the consensus is all over the place, like two years ago. Usually, the Oscar winner will come from the Globes or the SAG. Before the BAFTA changed its voting and upended its position in the race, winning there could mean a win at the Oscars. But last year the SAG reigned supreme.
With all of that said, let’s look at Erik Anderson’s Best Actress list at AwardsWatch to see if there are any “Oscar stories” happening:
- 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)
- 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?
Looking at this list, a few Oscar stories stand out:
- Viola Davis has won an Oscar in supporting, but never lead. She is the only actress to win two SAG awards for Best Actress and then lose the Oscar both times. She is beloved and long overdue. If she wins, she will become only the second black actress in Oscar history to win in the category. How can THIS industry that pushes diversity, equity, and inclusion everywhere have that stat hanging over their head? Because they do. It remains a powerful motivator, to knock down that stat, and no other actress’ win would bring the house down in that way than Davis.
- Michelle Yeoh — if anyone said that a movie would come out about the multiverse and that it would star a Yeoh and become a massive hit, no one would believe it. The film is a phenom and much of that is due to Yeoh. She would win for the movie, which is credited with being one of the few box office successes of the year. She would also be the first East Asian (Malaysian-Chinese) actress to win Best Actress.
- Carey Mulligan — depending on her role in the film. She almost won for Promising Young Woman, where she died at the hands of a rapist. Now she’s prosecuting a rapist. I could see how that would become a narrative that drives a win.
- Margot Robbie — still an “it” girl in every sense of the word. A win for her would be the old Oscar glamour returning in full force. No one knows anything about the movie, but theoretically it’s possible.
- Naomie Ackie as Whitney Houston — it’s one of those things that is one in a million, but if it hits it will hit big.
- Ana de Armas — because if Austin Butler is the Best Actress frontrunner and she’s the Best Actress frontrunner — well, my friends, then you have Elvis and Marilyn winning the top prizes. THAT is quite the Oscar story.
The one performance not on Erik’s list but is worthy of attention right now is Maika Monroe from Watcher. It might turn out to be among the best performances of the year. It might have a hard time generating any buzz since it’s a horror film, but she’s certainly someone who should be talked about right now.
If only films that have been seen were up for the top five, it would look something like this:
- Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Maika Monroe, Watcher
- Emma Thompson, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
- Vicky Krieps, Corsage
- Anamaria Vartolomei, Happening (who won the Cesar)
But probably only one of these is going to be an Oscar contender. My own “sight unseen” predictions would probably be:
- Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Margot Robbie, Babylon (unless supporting)
- Carey Mulligan, She Said
- Viola Davis, The Woman King
- Cate Blanchett, Tar
That is just a first pass. Anne Thompson’s early predictions, along with contenders, are here.
This week’s column was a short one, my friends. I had a tooth pulled, which was fun! Thousands of words forthcoming next week.