Folks, do we have a Best Actress race or what? Much like last year, things have evolved in such a way as to make the competition for the Academy Award truly a five horse race (even if last year was more a three or perhaps four horse one). Oscar voters have absolutely no frontrunner to look to as they prepare to fill out their ballots later on this month. For some, the season turning to chaos has them pulling out their hair. For others, it’s utterly delightful. I’m more of the latter notion, personally, especially since it makes predicting more fun, if less of a science than an art form. I haven’t settled on anyone, obviously, but I do kind of want to talk about how we got here today…
It goes without saying, but if you somehow need a refresher, the nominees are:
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Penelope Cruz – Parallel Mothers
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
Kristen Stewart – Spencer
We can begin by looking back to how the season began, and perhaps even further back. About nine months ago, when I posted my Year in Advance predictions (found here), this was my predicted five (and beyond), which of course is somewhat of a shot in the dark:
1. Ana de Armas – Blonde
2. Kristen Stewart – Spencer
3. Jennifer Lawrence – Don’t Look Up
4. Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
5. Jennifer Hudson – Respect
Next in Line: 6. Frances McDormand – The Tragedy of Macbeth 7. Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye 8. Florence Pugh – Don’t Worry Darling 9. Emilia Jones – Coda 10. Lady Gaga – House of Gucci
The first section of the precursor season saw Kristen Stewart do very well with the various critics groups, with Olivia Colman not too far behind. There wasn’t any slam dunk situations going on, but it did seem like Stewart was a safe bet for a nomination, at the very least. Then, as it became clear that Spencer was not going to be an across the board Oscar player, some doubts crept in, but more on that in a moment. As her position was fluctuating, it seemed like Lady Gaga was locking up one of the fiive positions. Of course, the Academy also had something to say about that.
Once the Golden Globes chimed in, it was Stewart’s first major chink in the armor, as Nicole Kidman won for Being the Ricardos. What initially seemed like a quirky Globe pick that wouldn’t matter much sort of snowballed, as many a pundit, myself included, installed Kidman as the one to beat. Since then, she’s failed to capitalize on that, seen most notably with Jessica Chastain pulling off the victory with the Screen Actors Guild. None of them are nominated at BAFTA, so there is our chaos.
Now, we have a situation where any of the five can win. Chastain has SAG to her credit and is considered due for a win. Colman only has really Gotham to her name, aside from critics prizes, but she’s clearly beloved now by the Academy. Cruz is in the interesting position of not having anywhere she can lose, which oddly might work in her favor, even if she can’t gain any forward momentum. Kidman seems to have fallen back, but voters playing it safe seem likely to gravitate towards her. Then, there’s Stewart. Her time as the frontrunner has faded, but there’s a scenario where she’s lurking for the win, and it involves the Critics Choice Association.
CCA looms large now, at least in terms of how the race will be presented. Everyone except Cruz is among the nominees in Best Actress there, and we all know that voters in the group have a tendency to try and predict the Oscar winners. I’m a member and don’t do that, but I can’t deny that it happens. So, if Chastain gets another televised win next weekend, that might set her up nicely as the new favorite. However, if Stewart, who is the critics darling of the lot this year, scores the victory, does that vault her back to the front? We shall see, but stay tuned…
Sit tight to see who emerges from this chaotic Best Actress race!