The Best Actress race is getting decidedly more competitive, with Carey Mulligan continuing to scoop up critics’ wins as her film, Promising Young Woman, is in the second strongest position of any other films in her category and already a guild performer. Only Nomadland (with Frances McDormand) is a stronger player.
Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) is still in it, despite the Golden Globe snubbing her film save her and Chadwick Boseman. An oversight? Probably. They ignored all Black-led films in their Best Motion Picture categories.
Right now, only Davis, McDormand, Mulligan and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) have hit GG/SAG/BFCA and the BAFTA longlist and (AACTA, for what it’s worth). It doesn’t make them locks, but we’re getting close. But that fifth spot, if we hypothetically say these are the top four, is going to be quite a race. It would seem like it’s between Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday) and Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy). Each come with huge advantages and major disadvantages though.
Day is playing a real life person, one of the most celebrated blues singers of all time. She’s a newcomer in a debut performance and uses her own singing voice in the film. But, we just had a Best Actress winner playing a legendary singer and using her own voice (Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in Judy) only last year. And Day also missed the BAFTA longlist of 15, despite her film getting in elsewhere. But, in the era of expanded diversity in the Academy, both in membership and voting, the allure of having two Black Best Actress nominees in the same year for the first time since Diana Ross (Lady Sings the Blues) and Cicely Tyson (Sounder) 48 (!!) years ago maybe too appealing, and deserved, to ignore.
For Adams, she only trails her co-star Glenn Close for most acting nominations without a win for a living performer. She has six to Close’s seven and Adams knows a little bit about being snubbed right at the end. In 2016, her film Arrival earned 8 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director (and winning Sound Editing) but she was left off the list on Oscar nomination morning despite earning nods from the top four precursors. She bounced back just two years later (in supporting) with Vice but can she do it with even fewer precursors backing her?
Does someone like Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie) have what it takes to spoil? Or will we see the return of Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead), the first Oscar acting winner from a non-English language film and looking to mount a return after 56 years.
The Golden Globe Awards are February 28, Critics’ Choice Awards are March 7, BAFTA nominations come out March 9, Oscar nominations drop March 15 and the Screen Actors Guild Awards are April 4.
Here are my ranked 2021 Oscar predictions in Best Actress for February.
Green – moves up ↑; Red – moves down ↓; Blue – new entry this month +; Black – no change ↔
1. Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman ↑ (Focus Features) – GG, SAG, BAFTA longlist, BFCA
2. Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom ↓ (Netflix) – GG, SAG, BAFTA longlist, BFCA
3. Frances McDormand – Nomadland ↔ (Searchlight Pictures) – GG, SAG, BAFTA longlist, BFCA
4. Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman ↔ (Netflix) – GG, SAG, BAFTA longlist, BFCA
5. Andra Day – The United States vs Billie Holiday ↑ (Hulu) – GG, BFCA
6. Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy ↑ (Netflix) – SAG, BAFTA longlist
7. Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead ↑ (Netflix) – BAFTA longlist
8. Zendaya – Malcolm & Marie ↓ (Netflix) – BAFTA longlist, BFCA
9. Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always ↓ (Focus Features) – BFCA
10. Nicole Beharie – Miss Juneteenth ↔ (Vertical Entertainment)
Other Contenders: Julia Garner – The Assistant ↔ (Bleecker Street) – BAFTA longlist, Yeri Han – Minari ↔ (A24), Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man ↔ (Universal Pictures), Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit ↔ (Sony Pictures Classics), Kate Winslet – Ammonite ↔ (Neon) – BAFTA longlist
Photo credit: Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX