This Academy Awards rundown is the fifth of several that I’ll be doing for the major acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture. Definitely follow this blog on either Twitter, Facebook, or WordPress to keep up!
Additionally, this list is in order of least to most likely to win, and per usual, are accompanied by gifs. The next in this series will be Best Picture. Enjoy!
Meryl Streep: The Post
It’s pretty rare to be in an Oscar race knowing that Meryl Streep’s chances of winning are minimal (Streep being a three-time winner). Nominated for The Post, she demonstrates one of the most formidable Best Actress races is recent memory. Streep plays Katharine Graham, owner of The Washington Post at the center of the “Pentagon Papers” scandal. Streep typically plays headstrong confident women. Her role as Graham, a woman whose self-belief is as small as Nixonian trust, works against her usual casting. However, even that trick won’t be enough for her. For once, Streep will be the one who’s just happy to be there.
Saoirse Ronan: Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan probably has some of the worst luck of any actor/actress of the last 10 years. Her first nomination was for Best Supporting Actress in Atonement (2008). That year, she had no shot against Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton. Her next nomination came in 2015 for Brooklyn. Brie Larson was the runaway winner for Room. This time, she’ll most likely miss out again as Christine “Ladybird” McPherson, the lower-middle class daughter from Sacramento who craves to moves east to find “culture.” Lady Bird may be the most beloved film of the year, but its popularity will do little to help Ronan. Next year, she’ll be starring with a fellow nominee, Margot Robbie, in Mary Queen of Scots. Expect Ronan to be back here next year for a fourth try.
Margot Robbie: I, Tonya
This performance is probably my favorite of the year. I absolutely believe that Margot Robbie should be this year’s winner. She plays Tonya Harding, a figure skater known more for the infamous hit against Nancy Kerrigan and the media circus surrounding it than a real person. Robbie shifts from funny to vulnerable to aggressive to spoiled. She idles between liar and unbeknownst accomplice. But mostly she plays a battered wife and a tortured athlete raised by a monster of a mother.
Additionally, Robbie had to train for the skating, and even boxing sequences.
In terms of range and circumstance, I don’t think any actress or actor had a greater performance. Alternatively, I don’t think any performer had a better scene. When Robbie is left haphazardly spreading makeup on her face, as she is crumbling like the mascara around her eyes, she breaks into a halfhearted smile. The scene is utterly devastating. Even if you didn’t like Harding going into the film, Robbie pushes the viewer to empathize. Robbie won’t win, but damn if she shouldn’t.
Sally Hawkins: The Shape of Water
If Margot Robbie was my favorite performance, Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water would be a very close second. Once again, we’re down to a high degree of difficulty. Hawkins plays a mute janitor working in a government laboratory who befriends an amphibious creature.
Hawkins has to do as much as her counterparts without the hint of a word. And in so many ways she exceeds them. She is also no stranger to the Oscar hunt. She was first nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Blue Jasmine, an award she would have won had Lupita Nyong’o not ended the race with her performance in 12 Years a Slave.
If you’re looking for a massive upset on Oscar night, then I’d say that Hawkins would be your prime candidate. The Shape of Water received more nominations than any other film this year, so there’s clearly wide support for the film. There very well could be some spill over in that enthusiasm.
Frances McDormand: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
Unfortunately, so many of my rundowns have come down to me trying to reason another winner from the obvious front runner. When the Best Actress race initially commenced, most thought it would go down to the wire. Instead, this race has essentially been over since McDormand won at the Golden Globes. Along with her Globe award, she’s also won the SAG, Critic’s Choice, and BAFTA. As with Gary Oldman, there simply isn’t anyone left to vote against her.
In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDormand plays Mildred, a foul mouth vigilante mother who’s pissed that the killer and rapist of her daughter still roams free. The role feels like it offers the least range of any of the above actresses, yet range isn’t everything. McDormand takes what seems like a one-note character and gives it far more depth than seems initially possible. Personally, I’d say that McDormand had my third favorite performance of the Best Actresses.
However, if she wins, I certainly wouldn’t mind. McDormand is also no stranger to the Oscars. This is her fifth nomination, having been previously nominated for North Country (2005), Almost Famous (2000), Fargo (1996), and Mississippi Burning (1989) and winning for Fargo. Also, if McDormand wins she’ll be only the ninth Best Actress winner over the age of 60 (though McDormand would probably kick me in my Ebbing, Missouri for even breathing her age).
Expect McDormand to walk off with the Best Actress Oscar.
Photo credit: ETOnline\