How do you know when something is an ‘internet thing’ or the ‘real thing’?
A few years ago, Jake Gyllenhaal seemed primed for a Best Actor nomination (nearly a decade after his first, in supporting) for his brilliant work in 2014’s Nightcrawler as a bottom-feeding ‘if it bleeds it leads’ news videographer with no moral compass. He hit all the precursors: Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA. It was a small film but a huge cinephile and ‘Film Twitter’ hit. Then he got snubbed (although the film’s screenplay was nominated) and, even though Bradley Cooper’s late-breaking and massive blockbuster hit American Sniper was clearly a factor, we were left wondering were we in a bubble of safety because of those precursors and didn’t read Academy voters well enough?
Something similar feels like it’s brewing this year, in Best Actress. Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress for 2009’s An Education and since then has been churning out awards-worthy performances year after year, most notably in 2011’s Shame and 2018’s Wildlife, but she has yet to earn another nomination. In Promising Young Woman Mulligan is given a role unlike any she’s played before; not villainous, but a trauma-based revenge tale that is volatile, vicarious and voracious in its appetite. Again, ‘Film Twitter’ is heartily behind the film and especially Mulligan in it. But how different are Academy voters from six years ago and how will they view a female character so deliciously and unapologetically anti-hero that it’s usually reserved for male actors? I think there’s a place for her, a major place, on the Best Actress list but the new Academy will have to be behind its very timely theme and darkly comic and satiric tone.
Emmy winner Zendaya stakes a claim this month with Malcolm & Marie, the COVID-shot two-hander with John David Washington from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson that drops from Netflix in February, making her the sixth contender from the streamer. Speaking of, don’t ever, ever, ever count out Meryl Streep. Her 21 Oscar nominations have left many hopefuls in their wake and if she lands all the precursors she needs, as she did with her last musical effort Florence Foster Jenkins, she’s in for The Prom.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – new entry this month
1. Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
2. Frances McDormand – Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)
3. Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman (Netflix)
4. Andra Day – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Paramount Pictures)
5. Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)
6. Meryl Streep – The Prom (Netflix)
7. Kate Winslet – Ammonite (Neon)
8. Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead (Netflix)
9. Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix)
10. Zendaya – Malcolm & Marie (Netflix)
Other Contenders: Nicole Beharie – Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment), Rachel Brosnahan – I’m Your Woman (Amazon Studios), Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix), Carrie Coon – The Nest (IFC Films), Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Focus Features), Julia Garner – The Assistant (Bleecker Street), Yeri Han – Minari (A24), Felicity Jones – The Midnight Sky (Netflix), Rashida Jones – On the Rocks (A24/Apple TV+), Sienna Miller – Wander Darkly (Lionsgate), Elisabeth Moss – Shirley (Neon), Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit (Sony Pictures Classics)