After what most felt was a stellar year for lead female performances in 2016, resulting in one of the most competitive Oscar races in years, the 2018 race is looking quite full as well. Previous Oscar winners and nominees are going to flood this year, as well as some ladies looking for their first nomination in breakthrough or classic ‘deglam’ roles. Looking back a year ago at the Gold Rush Gang’s top 10 Best Actress prospects, we had Ruth Negga (Loving) and Emma Stone (La La Land) on our list, plus Viola Davis (Fences) until she went supporting. We also had a handful of performances from films that didn’t end up being 2017 releases, some of which will show up here. Conversely, some performances on this list that haven’t been given release dates (or even picked up by a studio yet) as just as likely to be pushed to next year.
Right now, the next season of The Gold Rush Gang is still being put together so as of right now these are my solo thoughts. Group predictions will go up within the coming weeks.
Here is a taste of what looks like, on paper, as some of the best contenders this year.
Emma Stone may have just won her first Best Actress Oscar for La La Land but she’s already at bat (or at racket, if you will) for a possible follow up with Battle of the Sexes from Fox Searchlight. Set against the highly-publicized 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell), this has the potential to bring her right back to the Dolby. At first thought, it kind of feels more like an Eddie Redmayne ‘The Theory of Everything win to a The Danish Girl nomination’ though.
Fox Searchlight will have its hands full this year with a few more high-profile Best Actress contenders from Oscar nominees Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Keira Knightley (The Aftermath) and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Oscar winners Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
After a stellar campaign by Sony Pictures Classics for Isabelle Huppert (Elle) in securing her first Oscar nomination, she could also be back. Starring in Oscar nominee Michael Haneke’s Happy End, a story of a family in Calais, France with a refugee crisis as its backdrop, there won’t be a more timely issue. If Huppert and SPC could get her in for what most thought was the most unfriendly Oscar role imaginable, this is exactly the type of follow-up that could secure her second nomination. Sony Pictures Classics also has Sally Hawkins in Maudie this year as well as Oscar winner Helen Mirren in The Leisure Seeker, who should always be considered a top contender. But wait, there’s more – Eva Green in Roman Polanski’s Based on a True Story. Green plays a writer who becomes involved with an obsessed fan. Someone else on the SPC roster this year that I’m definitely going to pay close attention to is Daniela Vega in the Chilean film A Fantastic Woman. Vega plays a waitress and nightclub singer dealing with the death of her boyfriend and his family with whom she must now face. Vega is a transgender actress and this would be a historic breakthrough of a nomination. SPC has done well in this category because they’ve traditionally focused on a single performance and throw everything they have at it. What will they do here?
Another major contender will be Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) in The Glass Castle from Lionsgate. Directed by her Short Term 12 helmer Destin Daniel Cretton and written by Cretton, Marti Noxon and Andrew Lahman adapting the best-selling memoir by Jeanette Walls, this story of a dysfunctional family of eccentric nomads is sure to be in the conversation all year. One major obstacle: Larson may not be lead. If not, she’ll immediately become a major frontrunner in supporting.
Jessica Chastain has The Zookeeper’s Wife, a true story of a woman who hid and saved hundreds of people during the Nazi invasion of Poland. Chastain also has Molly’s Game, from STX Entertainment that’s written and directed by Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin. And because she’s Jessica Chastain, she has yet another film and role in contention; Woman Walks Ahead, the true story of Catherine Weldon, who travels to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull, and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples’ struggle over the rights to their land.
Then we have the return of Judi Dench to the Oscar conversation in Victoria and Abdul (Focus Features). Pairing her with Stephen Frears once again (who got her her last nomination, for Philomena), this story of an unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria (yes, she’s playing another queen) and an Indian clerk seems tailor-made for Oscar.
Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence will return with mother! from Darren Aronofsky but this highly secret project sounds like it might be a bit weird and off-kilter for the Academy. It just got an October release, which could be great or could just be that it’s looking for those horror/thriller Halloween dollars.
A24, which just won its first Best Picture Oscar for Moonlight, could get Kirsten Dunst her first Oscar nomination. Woodshock, a perilous tale of drug addiction, could be just the thing to earn her her best notices since Melancholia. The studio also has Debra Winger in The Lovers, which could have a strong comeback narrative.
Speaking of A24 though, Annette Bening came very close to a Best Actress nomination this year that didn’t transpire. But, she could return with one of two films; The Seagull or Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.
Margot Robbie could find herself with major Oscar talk if her Tonya Harding ice skating biopic I, Tonya takes off. We’ve already seen the pics of her in a fat suit and 90s jeans putting deglam to the test. If the tone of the film and its campaign is on point, this could be her Charlize Theron in Monster.
Michelle Pfeiffer, who was on last year’s list for Beat-up Little Seagull (now called Where is Kyra?) is back. The story of a woman who loses her job and struggles to survive on her ailing mother’s income sounds a bit like Sundance misery porn but Pfeiffer should have a high-profile year with this, the remake of Murder on the Orient Express (playing the Lauren Bacall role), mother! with Jennifer Lawrence and her Madoff movie on television.
Oscar winner Kate Winslet could find another nomination with Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel. It’s coming from Amazon, who just earned their first Oscars with Manchester by the Sea. Winslet also has The Mountain Between Us but Wonder Wheel seems her more likely vehicle.
Finally, there’s six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close. She will return with The Wife in hopes of a seventh nomination, putting her in a territory all her own – most nominated living actress yet to win. In the film, Close plays Joan Castleman, a writer who decides to leave her husband while he’s traveling to receive a Nobel Prize. Close has four other films set for possible release in 2017 (plus the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel this summer, including the Julian Fellows-penned Agatha Christie movie Crooked House.
Keep an eye out for official first predictions in the coming weeks.