Best Actress is the Tightest Oscar Race This Year

The thirteen actresses vying for one of five nominations for Best Actress have, between them, forty nine nominations and eight wins between them. At this writing the two major contenders are Oscar winner Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, a tremendous performance of contained fury. Sally Hawkins, a previous nominee is the other major contender in the soul stroking The Shape of Water, in the actress gives an astonishing performance of emotional purity. Right now they go back and forth as one and two, and come Oscar night one of them could be holding an Oscar.

But before we get there are eleven other fine performances that could land among the nominees. Last years winner Emma Stone is a possibility as feminist tennis star Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes, a film that with the current climate in Hollywood feels urgent.

The extraordinary Kate Winslet could land another nomination for her mesmerizing work in Woody Allen’s’ latest Wonder Wheel. She would be the latest in a film directed by Allen to win for her work, joining Diane Keaton, Dianne Weist (twice), Mira Sorvino, Penelope Cruz and Cate Blanchett as Allen’s Oscar-winning women. It helps that Winslet might be the greatest actress of her generation.

Oscar winner Judi Dench could jump into the race for her much admired work as Queen Victoria in Victoria and Abdul, the only drawback being she was nominated for portraying Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997). Nicole Kidman won the Oscar in 2002 for The Hours, should have had a slew of other nominations rather than the three others she has. She might be among the nominees for her staunch, strict matron in The Beguiled (2017).

Previous nominee Michelle Williams, nominated just last year in Manchester By the Sea (2016) and is being discussed for her work in the Getty kidnap drama All the Money in the World. Much will depend on the fall out of the Kevin Spacey incidents; though it is wrong it impact her, it could, it will.

Saorise Ronan, nominated previously for Brooklyn (2015) seems a shoo-in for her stunning work in Lady Bird, a brilliant film of female teen angst. The film has earned rave reviews and has the love of everyone who has seen it, myself included. Ronan seems on track to that third nomination. The actress is luminous.

Robbed of a nomination for Miss Sloan (2016) last year, robbed of a win for Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Jessica Chastain is a likely nominee for her superb work in Molly’s Game. The film is based on the true story of a former Olympic skier who becomes the madam of high stakes poker in LA and NY. I cannot imagine her not being nominated, but I was very confident she would be a nominee last year.

There are three actresses in the running who have never been nominated, one of them just seven years old. Brooklynn Prince, astounding in The Florida Project, should without question be a nominee, but will enough people see the film? Will they pull category fraud and plunk the little lady in the supporting race? Shame on them, she is the lead and shatters our hearts, utterly remarkable.

For her darkly hysterical turn as disgraced Olympian Tonya Harding, Margot Robbie could grab her first nomination. Turning a nasty story into a black comedy, the actress plays the role pitch perfect, and audience and critics who have seen the film are responding. With a nasty glint in her eye, and a wink to the audience, she astonishes. For her towering performance as Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot could land a nomination for her confident, compassionate turn as the superhero. The film was a huge box office hit, critics loved it, all which could spell Oscar success.

And finally, the most nominated Oscar actress of all Meryl Streep could land yet another for her performance as Katherine Graham, the braves publisher of the Washington Post who in the seventies published controversial papers from the Pentagon. The Post is timely, a film that explores the importance of the press, and again a woman in charge. So with McDormand and Hawkins the likely absolutes, three of the remaining eleven will get in. I am reserving judgement until I have seen The Post and All the Money in the World.