NICK: We’ve arrived at the most crowded acting category of year, which doesn’t necessarily mean this category will be difficult to predict. If you look at the fifteen women in Nathaniel’s Best Actress predictions — I think Lesley Manville should be higher for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris — you can see that the fifth slot is going to be a bloodbath. It makes it even harder to narrow things down when so many of the turns are fantastic. The sheer amount of chaos offered from the this category in the past couple years makes it hard for me to feel comfortable with setting anything in stone even as we reach the end of the year.
I wanna honor the messiness of the category, from year to year, and spice up how we order this volley. Euro, of all the leading actresses from 2022 with minimal-to-no Oscar buzz, who would you rank among the very best?
EURO: Oh, that would be Dale Dickey. Her performance in A Love Song is exactly the kind of turn the Independent Spirit Awards should be championing, and I’m thrilled that they did. If you haven’t had a chance to check this charmer out, I highly recommend it
There are also a series of brilliant leading lady performances in acclaimed films that aren’t in THE BIG 7 we’ll soon be discussing: Tang Wei dominates the screen in Decision to Leave in a compelling turn that keeps us on edge; Rooney Mara, only slightly more “lead” than her costars, is one of the heartfelt standouts as she helps guide discussion in Women Talking; and let’s put some respect on Keke Palmer’s name by correctly signifying her as the co-lead of Nope, in hopes that we will see more leading opportunities that match her talents. Which “outside the conversation” leading actresses will be on your mind come nomination morning?
NICK: You’re so right about Tang Wei, and though I’m not as high on Palmer as you are, she and Kaluuya are a solid duet. And yes, she’s a lead.
To return to the Indie Spirits ballot, I was very pleasantly surprised to see Mia Goth score a nomination for Pearl. It’s such a great turn, earning those gonzo explosions with a potent vision of spiraling insanity that’s just aware of itself enough for her to feel frightened of who she’s becoming. As far as horror performances go, I’m maybe even more impressed with Rebecca Hall in Resurrection, whose granular, finely-honed choices deliver a genuine character study in a movie that should’ve gotten to it’s big final sequence at least 15 minutes earlier than it does, in no small part because Hall’s conviction makes her final “shock” decision a fearsome inevitability.
Lastly, two stellar turns from films I’ve recently rewatched: Lee Hye-young in In Front of Your Face, forever deepening her film by constantly suggesting a whole world of unspoken thoughts on top of her sharp reactions; and Anamaria Vartolomei in Happening, blending her character’s intelligence, insolence, and many desires for her life into formidable multi-sided portraiture.
Any of these four would be wonderful nominees, and wildly outside the line of who the Academy would nominate. So, now that we got our creative juices flowing for our faves, what do you think of Oscar’s probable nominees, and who do you think is the likeliest contender for that fifth spot?
EURO: Well, let’s start with the frontrunners. Cate Blanchett is giving an epic performance that almost serves as a “greatest hits” collection of the strengths we have seen from her roles over the years, but even so, my vote would go to Michelle Yeoh, whose combination of pathos, reactionary nuance and combat training are the perfect recipe for a performance unlike any I’ve seen before. What an insanely competitive year that Danielle Deadwyler, who is delivering one heartfelt Oscar clip after another, lands third on my list. Her Globes snub (for a Blonde nomination… I can’t) is just a reminder that they go for big names and flashy movies, so I’m still confident in her chances. Any of these three would be top tier Best Actress winners, and I genuinely believe (and hope) they will recognize all three.
I’d be curious to hear if you doubt any of those, but let’s move on. Michelle Williams is taking a big swing in The Fabelmans, giving a performance that I initially found overbearing but ultimately one that landed in a way that worked for me. I will admit, though, that I was mixed enough on the results to keep her out of my personal top five in this category. Will voters feel the same way? I apologize for saying this, but my personal take is that lead and supporting labels would both make sense here, depending on whether you think the sole lead of the film is LaBelle or the lead is shared by his fictional parents (and I’m genuinely happy to debate both sides of that argument). Assuming this isn’t questioned, though, how divisive is this performance? Does it make sense to give The Fabelmans a slew of nominations without including her? I can’t answer this, but I’m under the assumption that if the love for the film is there, we should assume she will show up.
And then there were three. Before we launch into them, any thoughts on the four I’m assuming we will see included?
NICK: Re: The alleged frontrunners. I think Blanchett’s giving a wild, entertaining performance in TÁR, but I admit I’d be annoyed on principle to see her win a third Oscar in less than twenty years. Share the wealth, goddammit! I’ll co-sign everything you said about Yeoh, who would be a tremendous winner and an unbelievable mold-breaker for the category’s palpably limited scope towards race and genre. I’m maybe even more in the tank for Deadwyler’s precise, heart-rending delineations of maternal grief and political awakenings, and as disappointing as it is to see her miss at the Globes, I think she has a shot so long as she shows at SAG and BFCA. I simply can’t stand the thought of Chinonye Chukwu directing one of the best performances of the year only for her star to go unrecognized by Oscar twice. but you couldn’t go wrong with any of those choices. I really hope the sheer amount of high quality performances means no one sweeps, and I would be shocked/disappointed to see any of them miss.
Williams excites me a little less than those three, but I wouldn’t expect her to miss a nomination. The movie’s taking off in a big way, she’s a repeat nominee (albeit one whose seemingly never been a frontrunner). I do think campaigning Lead makes sense, even if it likely kills her odds of winning – she’s such a fulcrum for the story, and her decision to play Mabel Longhetti as a Jane Wyman character is the kind of palpably risky acting that makes one stand out in a crowded ensemble (I imagine people would’ve called fraud if she went Supporting).
Meanwhile, newly minted Globe nominees Olivia Colman, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie are shuttering around my predicted fifth slot, and now Ana de Armas, Emma Thompson, and Lesley Manville have some elbow room of their own. Who among this crowd do you think has the best shot with Oscar?
EURO: Listen, those dresses for Mrs. Harris are lovely but Manville has no elbow room for awards. Thompson was wonderful in Leo Grande, but I don’t think her film has the buzz to get her in, and De Armas’ film has plenty of buzz, but the worst kind. I refuse to acknowledge a world where she gets in when Marilyn herself never secured a nomination. Blonde is one of the most offensively terrible films I’ve ever seen (not exaggerating), so – please no. (I have a feeling older voters will struggle with it too.
Of the remaining three, Colman’s film has died down to a whisper when it comes to its impact on the race. She’s been on such an incredible run with the Academy recently, but with such an idiosyncratic character, I think this may be the year they take a pass. All of the film’s best scenes involve its visual elements and its score, and I have a feeling if it does sneak a nomination or two, that will be the Academy’s focus. It’s hard to count out a performer they love so much, and in a weaker year, she’d easily make the cut. I just think our last two options are most likely to battle it out in the end.
Viola Davis is a possibility full of pros and cons. Pro: She championed her film, which turned into a minor box office hit (a big deal this year), in a way that the Academy will respect (think Kidman with Rabbit Hole or Theron with Bombshell, but more $). Con: Yeoh is already bringing an action heroine to the category, a type of role voters don’t typically reward. Pro: Her film is pretty universally loved, unlike the split reviews for Robbie’s Babylon, and she is a logical place to reward it. Con: While it’s on the bubble for the Best Picture race, will the film show up anywhere else and will the Academy have seen it? Pro: Her nomination count is finally pushing her towards our top tier, and while the Academy might not think about this the way we do, they have to feel good about continuing to recognize her. In the end, there are so many reasons for her to be here, I end up leaning in her direction. Robbie is a livewire and might be undeniable in another big swing, but the question is, like Williams, how will that swing land with voters?
Which direction are you leaning with the final slot?
NICK: I have yet to experience Blonde, despite merciless prodding from Cláudio to see it so he can watch me fume. Despite the middling buzz for Empire of Light, Best Actress is often the acting category most willing to nominate a performer even if their film doesn’t have much else going for it. I wouldn’t count her out completely. I’d be pretty thrilled if Manville and Thompson snuck into Oscar’s favor, and I think the smallness of their films and performances might be an appealing counterbalance to some other contenders. I wonder if they’ll show up anywhere else among the televised awards – maybe BAFTA, since their film branch has never sprung for Colman?
Robbie’s giving what I would call a very nominatable performance in Babylon. Lots of big gestures and wild energy. She’s got plenty of good moments, especially when Nellie’s making movies, but the trajectory of the film and her character keep me from getting very excited about it. Still, of the women with a real shot at this slot, I’m rooting hardest for Viola Davis. I agree with your pros and cons about her odds and The Woman King’s chances overall, though I think the transformative aspects of the role are impressive enough to push her over the edge. Action hero Viola Davis is not a role anyone expected of her, and the novelty of that (along with the melodramatic historical polish) could count for a lot. And how cool would it be to have two action star turns in Best Actress from 57 and 60 year old actresses?
I have two more women to throw at your real quick, and then I’ll say my predictions. I wonder if JLaw has any chance to sneak in for Causeway? Hers is perhaps the quietest performance and the film has no buzz. But maybe that quietness from a former winner who was recognized for the high-volume star power Robbie’s pulling on might draw some eyes. The SAG screenings have certainly gone over well, from what we’ve read. And does the last-minute retitling of I Wanna Dance With Somebody mean the film is an evident flop and we don’t have to worry about Naomi Ackie?