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Re-Examining the 2019 Best Actress Race

So, back in March right after the 90th Oscars took place, I did a premature overview of the Best Actress race. But now that festival season is kicking into high gear, I figured I’d take another look at the various contenders vying for those five coveted slots.

First, I’ll go with my current predicted five at the moment (in alphabetical order):

Glenn Close for The Wife:

Aside from Amy Adams and Annette Bening, there is hardly an actress more overdue for an Oscar than Glenn Close. She currently has a 0-6 record and who knows how many more chances she will have going forward. That’s why The Wife could easily be the one that gets her an Oscar to go along with the other awards in her trophy case. Sony Pictures Classics got Julianne Moore her overdue Oscar for Still Alice. Who says lightning can’t strike twice? Glenn Close is one of our greatest living actresses and like Alex Forrest, she won’t be ignored!

Toni Collette for Hereditary:

Admittedly, this is a slight case of “want vs. should” since Collette might be handicapped by the fact that it’s a horror film that came out in June. But at the same time, Collette feels like the kind of esoteric, “cool” choice that becomes a critical favorite. Think Isabelle Huppert for Elle a couple years ago. She dominated the major critics awards for a very un-AMPAS movie and eventually bulldozed her way in this category. If the major critics like LAFCA or NYFCC go for her, she’ll be a threat for a nomination, I think. Lastly, for what it’s worth, Collette is a previous nominee for The Sixth Sense, a horror film. Not saying she’s a safe bet but don’t write her off either.

Viola Davis for Widows:

Viola Davis finally won her overdue Oscar for Fences and is back in the race for the heist thriller Widows. The film may have a plural title but Viola Davis having top billing suggests that she has a slightly bigger role than her female co-stars. Not to mention, we know that she’ll deliver a quality performance as she always does and judging by the trailer, she looks like she has some meaty material to work with.

A Favourite actress:

The main reason I don’t have a specific actress from The Favourite predicted here is because where the three actresses are being pushed is still up in the air. Will there be one pushed Lead with the other two going Supporting? If so, who will go Lead? Well, Olivia Colman has top billing. However, Rachel Weisz could go Lead and be helped by the fact that she gave a brilliant leading performance in Disobedience early this year. Then, you have recent Best Actress winner Emma Stone. One day, I could say Olivia Colman competes here but another day, I’d go with Rachel Weisz. Total toss up until the festivals give us a clear idea.

Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born:

Should the film live up to its hype, Lady Gaga is a likely bet to land her first acting nomination. A win remains to be seen because she’s up against names like the dangerously overdue Glenn Close and potentially Olivia Colman for what looks like a heavier acting showcase. However, a nomination may be in the cards. Then again, she could end up like Madonna in Evita. She won the Golden Globe for Actress-Musical/Comedy but was left out on Nomination Morning.

As for those on the outside looking in:

6. Kiki Layne for If Beale Street Could Talk:

As names like Carey Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence will tell you, the Oscars always love to recognize a rising ingenue and Kiki Layne seems like someone who could get that “new star” slot. She may be a complete unknown but with the very actor-friendly Barry Jenkins at the helm, the film could be a strong showcase for her.

7. Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?:

When I did my premature Best Actress predictions, I felt quite silly for not including Melissa McCarthy. I mean, she’s not only playing a real-life figure but she’s a beloved comedienne playing a serious role. A seriocomic role, at the very least. Judging by the trailer, it’s a tad unsure what tone the film is going for. But if it is a full-fledged serious role, then McCarthy could have some heavy material to sink her teeth into.

8. Saoirse Ronan for Mary, Queen Of Scots:

With three nominations under her belt, 23 year old Saoirse Ronan already seems inches away from finally winning an Oscar. However, because Mary, Queen Of Scots doesn’t seem to be making a festival play, this might not be the one. That being said, she’s still a beloved ingenue playing a real-life monarch which might be enough to make her a threat for Nomination #4.

9. Carey Mulligan for Wildlife:

Almost ten years ago, Carey Mulligan achieved her Hollywood breakthrough with An Education and received a Best Actress nomination. Yet, despite going on to give brilliantly textured performances in films like Shame and Mudbound, she hasn’t quite been able to score Nomination #2. However, that could change with Wildlife since she’s garnered some of the best reviews of her career. Even though it’s being handled by IFC Films which is not much of an awards heavy hitter, they did get Marion Cotillard in here for Two Days, One Night not long ago. Fingers crossed magic can strike twice.

10. Felicity Jones for On The Basis Of Sex:

The role of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is very baity and also captures the political zeitgeist. So why is the film about her not aiming for a major festival run? This especially affects the chances of Felicity Jones who plays the famed judge. However, even in the film doesn’t fully deliver, it could still mainly be a Best Actress play for Jones because we know she’ll deliver. For what it’s worth, Felicity Jones is a previous nominee for The Theory Of Everything so she certainly has respect from her acting peers.

11. Yalitza Aparicio for Roma:

In Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film Roma, Yalitza Aparicio plays a maid trying to keep her family afloat in 1970’s Mexico City. Aparicio may be an unknown name but she is the center of the film which is getting an aggressive push from Netflix. Also, with the conversation surrounding #OscarsSoWhite still taking place, Aparicio would also give this category some much needed Latina representation which has been lacking not just in Hollywood but the Oscars as well. If she gets nominated, she’d be the first Latina actress to do so since Catalina Sandino Moreno who was nominated for Maria Full Of Grace back in 2004.

12. Keira Knightley for Colette:

2-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley managed to receive raves out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival for her portrayal of writer Gabrielle Sidonie Colette in the titular biopic. The film is also directed by Wash Westmoreland who directed Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance in Still Alice. An Oscar nominee in a costume drama helmed by a filmmaker who directed a Best Actress winning performance. Seems like a winning formula, right? Well, yes, but because the category is looking competitive and the film is coming out in September which is super risky, I have Knightley ranked low just to be safe. But should the competition start to thin out, Keira Knightley may have an easier path towards her third nomination.

13. Elsie Fisher for Eighth Grade:

Aside from Kiki Layne, another actress who stands a good chance at landing a “breakthrough/new star” slot is Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade. What helps is that Eighth Grade has become something of a sleeper indie hit with a current domestic gross of about $10 million. Also, Elsie Fisher will inevitably be in the running for “Rising Star” or “Best Young Actor/Actress” awards which will play a key role in keeping her in the conversation. The only potential handicap is that A24 Films is likely pushing harder for Toni Collette in Hereditary. But Elsie Fisher could be a surprise passion pick, though, since she’s the center of a film that’s super accessible. We’ll see what happens.

The Rest:

Previous winner Julianne Moore will star in Gloria Bell, the American remake of the 2013 film Gloria; Comeback Queen Nicole Kidman plays an L.A. detective confronting the ghosts of her past in Destroyer; Mary Elizabeth Winstead could have a “Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back” type awards run for her portrayal of a troubled stand-up comedienne in All About Nina; After landing a surprise nomination for Crazy Heart almost ten years ago, Maggie Gyllenhaal may potentially make an Oscar comeback with The Kindergarten Teacher; And Natalie Portman stars in Vox Lux, a drama on the rise and fall of a fictional pop star.

Who do you have predicted in Best Actress? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and share what you think of these predictions. Thanks for reading!


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