Best Actress is almost always the most competitive category the Oscar race. Surprisingly, this year, it is looking uncharacteristically thin. It’s not that we haven’t have women-centric films this year. If anything, there have been more female stories and storytellers this year than ever before. So, why less acting contenders. The only plausible explanation is that the increase in number of films doesn’t necessarily guarantee better films or performances. Or probably, there are still films waiting in the wings that nobody has seen and could potentially throw in a few more names.
Wishful thinking aside, here’s the list of contenders who I think have the potential to get nominated for, if not win, Best Actress Oscar. Obviously, considering we are still months away from the ceremony, the below list is more of an intelligent guess — based on my past experience, actor’s credibility and film’s potential — than anything else.
7. Natalie Portman, ‘Lucy in the Sky’
‘Lucy in the Sky’ is inspired by astronaut Lisa Nowak’s true story that was dubbed NASA love triangle by tabloids back in 2007. The film revolves around stressed-out astronaut Lucy Cola who after returning back to earth from space, where she was romantically involved with another astronaut, takes a deranged non-stop road trip across five states with lethal weapons in her trunk with the intent of kidnapping her ex-lover’s new romantic interest. As you might have already guessed, Natalie Portman plays the central role of Lucy Cola. Even though there’s plenty of meat in the role and Portman certainly excels in it, the film itself suffers from a lot of issues. Which means as good as Portman is, not enough people may see the film.
6. Cynthia Erivo, ‘Harriet’
Harriet Tubman was born a slave. Born in atrocities, she could have easily accepted her fate and continued to be beaten at the hands of the men who claimed to be her masters. But she was made of stronger matter. Not only did Tubman break out of the cycle that placed her under the dominance of one white family after another, she actively took part in freeing others of this miserable fate. She was an activist, she was a recruiter, she was a spy. Harriet Tubman lived many lives while people struggle with the only one that they’ve got! Cynthia Erivo is great as Harriet and surely deserves to be in contention. Her prospects of Oscar nomination depends a lot on how well the film does. The first reactions haven’t been great, but luckily for her, this year, shockingly, is turning out to be a weak year for best actress category.
5. Awkwafina, ‘The Farewell’
Come nomination time, if there’s one film that might surprise everyone it has to be ‘The Farewell’. It is universally loved and because it released early in the year, almost everyone will have seen it by end of the year. The film’s lead Awkwafina just needs one precursor award in her bag for people to start talking about her performance again. In fact, a SAG or a Golden Globe nomination should be more than enough to make sure that she lands a Best Actress nomination.
4. Charlize Theron, ‘Bombshell’
Bombshell’s trailer should be enough to justify Charlize Theron’s position in the list. In just over a minute, Theron is able to convince us that she is Megyn Kelly. Imagine what she will do with two hours? Theron hasn’t received an Oscar nomination in over a decade. After early success, she ventured into more commercial and big banner cinema, but recently she has been trying to take up bolder roles. We all know that she deserved an Oscar nomination for ‘Mad Max’. Anyway, it’s time to do that wrong right. The only issue could be the category she is campaigned in, because nobody is sure yet if she is the lead in the film.
3. Scarlett Johansson, ‘Marriage Story’
Scarlett Johansson might just be 34, but she has been around for quite some time now. If you are to believe Forbes, she is the single biggest female star working today. And yet, she does not have a single Oscar nomination to show off. Surprised? Yes, despite giving memorable performances in films like ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ ‘Match Point’, and ‘Under the Skin’, she has been ignored by the Academy for all these years. That will certainly change this year, because she gives career best performance in a film that will be immensely liked by folks in the Academy.
2. Saoirse Ronan, ‘Little Women’
Saoirse Ronan has already bagged three Oscar nominations in her relatively short acting career. Her last nomination came not very long ago for ‘Lady Bird’, Greta Gerwig’s last film. ‘Little Women’ is Louisa May Alcott’s autobiographical account of her life with her three sisters in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1860s. With their father fighting in the American Civil War, sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth are at home with their mother, a very outspoken women for her time. The story tells of how the sisters grow up, find love and find their place in the world. Over the years, Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel has acted as an inspiration for several stories, having been officially adapted onscreen several times. In 1994’s version of the film, Winona Ryder Ryder played Jo March, the same character that Saoirse Ronan is playing in this film. Ryder went on to receive Best Actress nomination that year. Will Ronan repeat the same? I am more than confident that she will.
1. Renee Zellweger, ‘Judy’
Who would have thought that in the year 2020, we would be talking about Renee Zellweger’s being an Oscar winner. Well, if we go by the rapturous response that her performance in ‘Judy’ has received, that seems a very likely scenario. Not that I doubt her talent, but the truth of the matter is that she retired from acting in 2010 and only came back into the scene recently. I mean anybody returning after a long hiatus in any kind of work will take some time to find his or her footing. But not Zellweger! She hit the ground running and could very well snatch her second Oscar win. ‘Judy’ may not be a great film, but it is good enough to allow Zellweger to finish first in the race.
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