Oscar Talk (IV): Best Actress Race is Extremely Competitive This Year

Who at this writing is a lock? Who is a shoo in or a likely nominee? Who could crash the party and shock everyone with a nomination? Who was looking strong and has fallen off the radar? Who was nowhere near the radar a month ago and now looks like a strong contender?

The Best Actress race is very different from Best Actor because it is loaded with genuinely brilliant performances and some of the best are going to be left out. It cannot be helped, with just five slots and they should keep it that way, some of the very best performances will be snubbed. Hell, the best of the year could be snubbed!!

The major problem is there are three locks, leaving room for just two more in a year where there at least, AT LEAST ten great female performances!

Much tougher to handicap than the men, let’s have a go.


The Locks

EMMA STONE, ‘LA LA LAND’: She is like a breath of fresh air, bursting with comic energy, a lovely screen presence and she can sing and dance. In may ways she reminds me a hugely talented Lucille Ball but with the ability to go dramatic if she wants. She is the “it” girl of the moment and when nominated could easily soar to the win.

NATALIE PORTMAN, ‘JACKIE’: One of the greatest performances ever put on film Portman is nothing short of miraculous in the film and does the finest work of her career. The problem? She has won before and the Academy may not award what she deserves because of that. Stupid but true. This performance makes her a legend, Streep good. And she should win.

ANNETTE BENING, ’20th CENTURY WOMAN’: A much loved four time nominee, she gets another chance as a seventies mom trying to unconventionally teach her son about the world, about life. Imagine the photo ops if Beatty (her hubby wins) and she wins. Either way, she is in the race.

Strong Possibilities

JESSICA CHASTAIN, ‘MISS SLOANE’: The fiery, gifted red head is superb in this political drama about gun control in which she is front and center. One of the best of the major new actresses, she is loved by the Academy, with two nominations in five years. If enough people see the movie, she is in, if not, well, she misses.

AMY ADAMS, ‘ARRIVAL’: A startling, emotional, brilliant performance from the five time nominee who knocks it put of the park with her performance as a linguist helping the government try and communicate with aliens. It is a deeply moving, intelligent performance from an actress audiences and the Academy seem to adore.

MERYL STREEP, ‘FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS’: Seems odd not including Streep as a lock, but she is not this year as good as she is in the film. It would be her 20th nomination, and again richly deserved, but the category has a wealth of greatness this year. It is a maybe, maybe not. What kind of year is it if Streep is not there?

SALLY FIELD, ‘HELLO! MY NAME IS DORIS’: In this lovely little indy film, Field is luminous and funny and moving as a spinster who takes a job after the death of her mother, whom she cared for and meets a much younger man she falls for. What would a thirty year old man see in a sixty year old woman you ask? Watch the movie, Field shows us. A brilliant performance.

ISABELLE HUPPERT, ‘ELLE’: Long a celebrated french actress in France, she is best known here for her role in Heaven’s Gate (1980) but with so many films out this year they seems to be falling over themselves in celebration of Huppert. She is ferocious in Elle as a rape victim who lashes back at her attacker in a unique way refusing to become a victim.

TARAJI P. HENSON, ‘HIDDEN FIGURES’: A late comer to the race, scenes of the film were screened at TIFF to great approval, and they are saying Henson is fantastic in the film as one of the genius level mathematicians who helped man get to the moon. Nominated once, she seems a strong possibility.

RUTH NEGGA, ‘LOVING’: The best thing in the film is Negga’s soulful proud performance as a black woman who married a white man for pure love and is persecuted for it. She is a strong actress and could easily be among the final five and deserve to be there. A great, great performance, but in a really crowded field.

Falling From the List

EMILY BLUNT, ‘THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN’: Once a contender, no more. With the film receiving mostly negative reviews, her chances nose-dived bright to zilch.

Out of Left Field

HELEN MIRREN, ‘EYE IN THE SKY’: Great actress and a great performance. But the film is hardly on anyone’s radar. In such a tough year, I don’t see this happening.