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2019 Oscars: The Best Actress Contenders (March)

As it often is, Best Actress is one of the more exciting Oscar categories this year. It’s jammed full of previous winners and nominees, including a few yearning for major comebacks. It’s also a wealth of new talent just bursting at the seams.

I’m slotting Viola Davis at #1 for Widows. After the hemming and hawing over which category she’d go in for Fences, both Davis and Paramount settled on supporting and she won. I think she could have won in lead as well and now she has a great chance to do so and to make history in the process. I’m hearing really good things about the film and its fall awards slot shows 20th Century Fox is fully behind it.

There’s no rest for the wicked as Saoirse Ronan looks to easily secure her 4th Oscar nomination before she even turns 25. With Mary Queen of Scots, Ronan teams with Focus Features and first-time director Josie Rourke and what we’ve seen so far looks pretty fantastic. Melissa McCarthy busted her ass for her supporting actress nomination for Bridesmaids but this year forgoes the poop jokes for more serious fodder with Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? and it could prove to be her Best Actress ticket. Previous Best Actress winners Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett in Destroyer and Where’d You Go, Bernadette, respectively, are looking to add another trophy to their mantles.

While obviously early predictions, three of my Best Actress top 5 for March come from female-directed films, which hopefully can become the norm rather than the exception.

Elsewhere in my top 10 is where we find some exciting possibilities. Sony Pictures Classics was smart to hold off Glenn Close’s The Wife until 2018 after overloading themselves in 2017. The 6-time Oscar nominated actress could finally find her little gold statue this time next year. There’s a lot of excitement about Ari Aster’s debut thriller/horror Hereditary and A24 has positioned it as a potential summer hit. Toni Collette’s return to the Oscar conversation would be long overdue. There is so much potential with the next three actresses and their films. Newcomer Kiki Layne could break through big in If Beale Street Could Talk, the follow-up from Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). All eyes will be on that film, which only helps her. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been churning out incredible performances for years (Beyond the Lights, Black Mirror’s San Junipero) and now finds what may be her best role in Fast Color, a superhero film that turns the genre on its head. It’s directed by Julia Hart, wife of Oscar-nominated La La Land producer (and Oscar envelope hero) Jordan Horowitz. It stunned at SXSW just last week and is currently in search of a distributor. I’m pegging a new studio like Neon/30 West to take a chance on it and give it a good push after such a breakthrough with I, Tonya last season. Poorna Jagannathan may not be a household name but if you watched HBO’s The Night Of you know that she can deliver a powerful performance. Pippa Bianco’s as-of-yet untitled feature, based on her short film Share, is poised to be a tremendous breakthrough for both the actress and director. With A24 behind it, they could steer the film to critical and awards acclaim.

It’s a deep bench of contenders outside this top 10, the biggest being Amy Adams. I’m currently pegging her for a supporting push for Backseat (which I feel could lock her in for a win) but she could be upped into lead. Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born) could do what Madonna couldn’t and get nominated in Best Actress for a musical (she’s basically got the Golden Globe already) and multiple actresses will be in the running for a return to the Best Actress list including Best Actress winners Emma Stone (The Favourite), Charlize Theron (Tully) and Julianne Moore (Gloria), Jessica Chastain (Woman Walks Ahead), Salma Hayek (The Hummingbird Project), Isabelle Huppert (The Widow), Judi Dench (Red Joan) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Where Is Kyra?) just to name a few.

Newcomers ready to be first-time nominees include Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Kristen Stewart (JT Leroy), Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians) and Sundance breakout Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade).

Here are the first Best Actress predictions for the 2019 Oscars.

1. Viola Davis – Widows
2. Saoirse Ronan – Mary Queen of Scots
3. Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
4. Nicole Kidman – Destroyer
5. Cate Blanchett – Where’d You Go, Bernadette

6. Glenn Close – The Wife
7. Toni Collette – Hereditary
8. Kiki Layne – If Beale Street Could Talk
9. Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Fast Color
10. Poorna Jagannathan – Untitled Pippa Bianco aka Share

Any number of these other contenders could easily find themselves a major player as the year progresses:

Amy Adams – Backseat (could go supporting)
Gemma Atherton – Vita and Virginia
Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns
Jessica Chastain – Woman Walks Ahead
Penélope Cruz – Everybody Knows
Judi Dench – Red Joan
Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born
Salma Hayek – The Hummingbird Project
Taraji P. Henson – The Best of Enemies
Isabelle Huppert – The Widow
Juli Jakab – Sunset
Dakota Johnson – Suspiria
Felicity Jones – On the Basis of Sex
Kiersey Clemons – Hearts Beat Loud
Keira Knightley – The Aftermath
Keira Knightley – Colette
Kelly Macdonald – Puzzle
Danielle Macdonald – Dumplin’
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie – Leave No Trace
Julianne Moore – Gloria
Chloë Grace Moretz – The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Carey Mulligan – Wildlife
Michelle Pfeiffer – Where Is Kyra?
Rosamund Pike – A Private War
Florence Pugh – Fighting with My Family
Gina Rodríguez – Miss Bala
Kristen Stewart – JT Leroy
Emma Stone – The Favourite
Hilary Swank – What They Had
Charlize Theron – Tully
Elizabeth Debicki – Vita and Virginia
Rachel Weisz – Disobedience
Rachel Weisz – The Favourite
Shailene Woodley – Adrift
Constance Wu – Crazy Rich Asians

Best Picture Contenders  

Best Director Contenders

Best Actor Contenders

About Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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