While Best Actress isn’t nearly as stacked with contenders like Best Actor is (par for the course, really) it doesn’t mean it’s any less competitive. In fact, it may be even more so.
Who’s a lock? Renée Zellweger in Judy? Of course, she’s also probably winning. Charlize Theron in Bombshell? Probably, it’s a lauded performance…in tweets. But then who? Everyone else arrives with one ding or another and in a very tight race you only need one to not make the cut.
Awkwafina (The Farewell) missed out on a Spirit Award nomination last week, which was a pretty big surprise. Especially since Zellweger managed a surprise mention there. She should still be able to secure SAG and Golden Globe mentions along with critics’ nominations and has been front and center at actress roundtables and in magazine profiles.
So that’s three spots. Two spots left. Legitimately four contenders vying for them.
I dipped my toe in the idea that Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) could be snubbed here. She may be a Golden Globe and BAFTA darling but Oscar has never come knocking, even in an Oscar-winning film. But, I’m predicting Marriage Story to win Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay. Are they really going to do her that dirty? I mean, sure, they could. She’s already the highest paid actress in Hollywood, maybe that’s her reward. She continues to fumble and punt her thoughts on Woody Allen (but seems to understand the Rub & Tug controversy now). But those kinds of ‘scandals’ are clearly meaningless now looking at the last few years. Or are they? I wonder if voters just mind less when men are involved in them than women.
Saoirse Ronan, at age 25, is already a three-time Oscar nominee and every time it’s happened it’s been in a Best Picture nominee. Little Women seems precariously on the cusp; it’s rare for more than one late December release to get in BP and this year we have three as 1917 and Bombshell join the newest Louisa May Alcott adaptation in the race. The three previous versions have an interesting history with the Oscars; they earned 11 nominations but there was no overlap or repeats. The 1933 film was nominated for Picture and Directing; Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason won for their screenplay. The 1949 film was nominated for cinematography; Cedric Gibbons and Paul Groesse won for Art Direction as well as Edwin B. Willis and Jack D. Moore for Set Decoration. The 1994 film won no Oscars but was nominated for Actress, Costumes and Music. So what does this mean for Ronan? It’s a tougher road than one would think as only Winona Ryder has managed a Best Actress nomination from a Little Women adaptation (not even Katharine Hepburn could do it) and historically the film doesn’t need to be a major player elsewhere for her to get in, it just needs to be a weak year (as 1994 was). 2019 isn’t a weak year though. Ronan will have to fight for this.
Lupita Nyong’o (Us) is already an Oscar winner (Supporting Actress, 12 Years a Slave) and she’s in the highest grossing film among all Best Actress contenders by a considerable margin. That should be enough, right? Not once, but twice, Andrew Carden examined the possibility of a Nyong’o nomination, looking at the history of horror and Oscar as well as lone Best Actress nominations. It puts a lot of obstacles in her way but Universal seems to be tossing some FYC cash towards it happening.
Earlier this year, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) seemed like a shoe-in to win here (on paper) playing one of the most important and underserved historical figures in US history and secure her EGOT. Now, she’s fighting for a nomination. Even though her film was hit with some mixed reviews, its box office performance is holding strong and steady but with a $17m budget, how did she miss a Spirit Award nomination? Too commercial? Maybe if Julia Roberts was cast as Harriet Tubman…
Despite being a December 27 limited release in a shortened Oscar season, Alfre Woodard in Clemency is in the thick of it, too. Neon has shorted the film in the screener department (all of their films, really) but they’ve done a bang up job getting Woodard and her film in front of multiple film festival audiences this fall where real voters are watching. Is it enough?
Here are my 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions in Best Actress for November 27, 2019.
Green – moves up Red – moves down Blue – new/re-entry
1. Renée Zellweger – Judy (Roadside Attractions)
2. Charlize Theron – Bombshell (Lionsgate)
3. Awkwafina – The Farewell (A24)
4. Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story (Netflix)
5. Cynthia Erivo – Harriet (Focus Features)
NEXT UP (alphabetical by actor)
Felicity Jones – The Aeronauts (Amazon)
Lupita Nyong’o – Us (Universal)
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)
Florence Pugh – Midsommar (A24)