Last Updated: December 18th
When it comes to this year’s Oscar race, one of the most exciting and competitive categories is Best Actress. There’s an abundance of riches in terms of leading actress performances this year, and narrowing it down to five women who get nominated is going to be a very, very difficult task.
There’s still not even a consensus on who the frontrunner is, but there are a number of women in the running for that top spot. Sally Hawkins delivers a stunning wordless performance in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which itself seems destined to be a major awards contender. It’s a delicate and impressive turn, and that Hawkins is able to tell the audience so much just with her movements and facial expressions is a testament to her talent.
There’s also Oscar-winner Frances McDormand, who delivers a towerhouse performance in the dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film nabbed the Audience Award at TIFF, which is usually a harbinger of at least a Best Picture nomination, and it made an incredibly strong showing with the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations. The actors branch is the largest in the Academy, and the bevy of SAG nominations for Three Billboards signals that this movie has a lot of fans in the industry.
Saoirse Ronan, who was previously nominated for Atonement and Brooklyn, may very well find herself in the Best Actress circle once again for her terrific leading turn in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird. This is the kind of emotional and personal indie that has major crossover potential, and Ronan essentially carries most of the film herself with a balancing act of a performance—that of playing a genuine, complex teenager. Moreover, the film’s buzzworthiness is red hot, gaining passionate fans by the day. I think she has a very strong shot, and right now it feels like her and McDormand are the two frontrunners.
There’s also Meryl Streep, who will likely find herself in the mix for her leading role in Steven Spielberg’s The Post. She plays the first female publisher for the Washington Post in the politically relevant drama, and she delivers a stunningly nuanced performance in an incredibly timely film. While The Post was shut out of the SAG Awards nominations, screeners for the film didn’t get to SAG voters until about a week into their voting, which could account for the snub. Or it could be a larger sign of the film not having enough passionate fans. Either way, I think Streep at the very least gets a nomination.
Margot Robbie delivers the best performance of her career thus far in the darkly comedic Tonya Harding film I, Tonya, and she certainly seems to be well on her way towards her first Oscar nomination. Robbie now has both Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations under her belt, and while some critics deeply despise this film, it’s hard to ignore the power of Robbie’s performance.
Jessica Chastain certainly delivers a fantastic performance in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game, and Annette Bening has drawn strong notices for her turn in the real-life Hollywood drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. There’s even a slight chance for Jennifer Lawrence to sneak in for mother!, as the divisive Darren Aronofsky film has seemingly become a favorite amongst filmmakers. Lawrence is certainly doing the legwork necessary to campaign for such a nomination, so her visibility on the circuit could very well push her into the pack.
Emma Stone was an early contender for Battle of the Sexes until that movie disappeared pretty quickly, but a SAG nod for her co-star Steve Carell and a Golden Globes nod for Stone could put the film back on voters’ radar.
There was chatter about Kate Winslet potentially making a run for a nomination in Woody Allen‘s Wonder Wheel, but that film came and went pretty quickly/quietly, and given the current climate we’re in it seems unlikely a Woody Allen movie is going to get any sort of award traction.
And then there’s Michelle Williams in All the Money in the World. Kevin Spacey was famously going to be the focus of this film’s awards campaign, but his scenes are now being reshot with Christopher Plummer while Sony shifts the Oscar focus to Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg. Williams is apparently quite good in the film and scored a Golden Globe nomination for her work, and the added curiosity factor will ensure a lot of folks seek this one out. Could be a surprise in the making.
Here’s where I see the race as it stands right now: