Lupita is coming. With still more to come, Lupita Nyong’o has dominated the critics awards this season for her stunning dual performance in Jordan Peele’s winter blockbuster Us.
But, is it enough? Nyong’o missed the Globe but hit SAG, which is a much better get. Being an early release that more people saw than, say, Little Women, helped. Being a previous winner helped. Being a brilliant performance helped. It’s no secret though that the genre of her film is historically a big obstacle. But, she’s already doing better than Toni Collette did with Hereditary last year.
What’s interesting about the Best Actress race though is that four women have secured three of the four main precursors so far: Renée Zellweger (Judy), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Charlize Theron (Bombshell) and Cynthia Erivo (Harriet). Each come from a film with very different strengths and varied placement in the Oscar race as a whole. History has shown us that Best Actress doesn’t have to be as tied to Best Picture as Best Actor is, but it’s slowly changing (barring career wins and the like). Just look at last season: Glenn Close (The Wife) was on her 7th nomination but the only one from her film and she lost out to a first time nominee (Olivia Colman, The Favourite) in a film with 10 nominations. Nyong’o has SAG and CCA but there’s a good chance she’ll be her film’s sole nomination. That won’t be the case for Johansson or Theron (both good shots in BP) but Zellweger is probably looking at just one more nomination for her film (Makeup and Hair) and Erivo the same (but for Song). Even though I still think Zellweger is the frontrunner it’s a widely open race below that. BAFTA is going to give us that final piece of the puzzle.
What’s been distressing this season is something that seems to keep happening to non-white actresses almost every season. Discussions revolve around a ‘one or the other’ scenario with Nyong’o, Erivo, Awkwafina (The Farewell), Alfre Woodard (Clemency), etc as if there is only ONE slot for a woman of color that must be decided on. It’s a similar argument that happens with female directors; as if voters have to coalesce around a single choice in order to secure it. It’s a dangerous and ugly way to look at race and the race, yet it keeps happening. Here’s a harrowing fact that speaks to that reality: there haven’t been two Black actresses nominated in Best Actress in the same year since 1972 when Diana Ross (Lady Sings the Blues) and Cicely Tyson (Sounder) were nominated together. Obviously, that’s also only happened once. In all, there have only been 11 Black Best Actress nominees ever in the Academy’s 91 years so far, the lowest number of any of the acting categories. And none of them, none of them, have repeated that lead nomination. And, as we all know, we still have only ever had one Black Best Actress winner, Halle Berry for 2001’s Monster’s Ball. 18 YEARS.
Here are my 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions in Best Actress for December 20, 2019.
Green – moves up Red – moves down Blue – new/re-entry
1. Renée Zellweger – Judy (Roadside Attractions)
2. Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story (Netflix)
3. Lupita Nyong’o – Us (Universal)
4. Charlize Theron – Bombshell (Lionsgate)
5. Cynthia Erivo – Harriet (Focus Features)
NEXT UP (alphabetical by actor)
Awkwafina – The Farewell (A24)
Felicity Jones – The Aeronauts (Amazon)
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women (Sony/Columbia)
Jodie Turner-Smith – Queen & Slim (Universal)
Alfre Woodard – Clemency (Neon)
OTHER CONTENDERS (alphabetical by actor)
Jessie Buckley – Wild Rose (Neon)
Mary Kay Place – Diane (IFC Films)
Florence Pugh – Midsommar (A24)