Sally Hawkins, Meryl Streep, and Saoirse Ronan lead the packed field for Best Actress
Best Actress started out as one of the most competitive categories at the Oscars this year, but quickly it looks like we’ve found our five nominees. Of all the categories this year, this is the one I’m most confident in predicting — at least the nominations. As for the winner, it’s going to be one of the hardest to predict. Especially considering that of the five expected nominees four of them appear in a Best Picture frontrunner. A feat that hasn’t happened since 2013 and gets even rarer the further you go back. If it does indeed happen, it would be a great way to cap off a year that has seen the most support for female empowerment in recent memory.
Still, the Academy is the Academy and that means that the winner of this category is going to most likely be a young, up and coming actress. That bodes well for Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), whose performance in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut has earned her wide acclaim and won her several critic’s awards along the way. It also doesn’t hurt that her film is one of the most acclaimed of the year and is looking more and more like a viable candidate to win Best Picture. However, it’s not your typical Oscar role. It isn’t the watershed performance that Brie Larson or Jennifer Lawrence won for nor the towering one of Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock. But what she does have going for her is momentum. Between her and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) the other young and up and coming actress in contention, Ronan is the one that seems to deserve it more at this point in her career. At just 23, she’s looking at her third nomination, is one of the most respected actresses of her age range, and feels overdue despite her young age. If I had to pick a definitive frontrunner, it is her.
But there are also other performances by veterans that in any other year would beget a win. The most likely of those would be Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water). Despite a silent performance and unconventional film, especially for the Oscars, she quickly emerged as a frontrunner early in the season. And it’s not surprising. Though I was more tepid on the film than most, I was enamored by her performance. It’s easily the most overtly emotional of the contenders. However, it does seem a bit too far outside the Academy’s taste to actually win. Though with the changing demographics, who knows what their taste actually is. What she does have going for her is that she hasn’t won like the two other veterans in the category.
Anyone who has seen Steven Spielberg’s latest film agrees on one thing. Meryl Streep (The Post) delivers one of the best performances of her career. While I can’t speak to that yet, from what I know about the role, it’s the kind of towering performance that often wins in this category. Plus, it’s a film that empowers its female protagonist, which will certainly play well in our current climate. However, there are a few things that will get in the way of another Oscar on her mantle. First, and probably most importantly, she won in 2011 for The Iron Lady. Though there have been cases with less time between wins, it’s pretty rare to win another trophy so close to another. It usually takes the perfect conditions to win again. In the case of Hillary Swank’s win for Million Dollar Baby, which came just 5 years after her win for Boys Don’t Cry, she didn’t have much feasible competition and her film was a late-breaking juggernaut. The same goes for Jodie Foster. I don’t think Streep has the right conditions to win, plus there are certainly other alternatives to go with. Especially Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
Like Streep, her role is about female empowerment and the movie gives her the room to explore that in a larger than life way. If there is a towering performance this year, it’s this one. However, the film has received significant backlash recently, which has diminished the acclaim it received initially. Unless there is a backlash to the backlash, I don’t see an easy path to a win.
Though I feel pretty confident that these five women are going to be the Best Actress nominees this year. There is always room for a spoiler to surprise in the category. The most vulnerable actress in a contention is probably Robbie, whose film is the most polarizing of the field and will have the least nominations on Oscar nominations morning. If she is pushed out, then Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game) is most likely to take her spot. She’s an Oscar favorite, landed a Globe nomination (Robbie and Ronan competed in the comedy category), and appears in a film that has received critical acclaim. However, there’s always room for another respected industry veteran like Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul) or out of left field choice like Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) to surprise.
Check out all our 2018 Oscar Predictions!
Current Predictions (1/2/18):
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman
Diane Kruger, In the Fade
Carey Mulligan, Mudbound
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes
Daniela Vega, A Fantastic Woman
Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel