Ok, so here’s the thing; the move by Netflix to push Chadwick Boseman into lead for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom throws some historical and statistical wrenches into the idea that Viola Davis is a likely winner/frontrunner in Best Actress.
Double acting wins from the same film aren’t uncommon but they do, more often than not, require the film to be a very strong – if not top 5 – Best Picture player. You also need to be a critical hit and have one or both nominations in Best Director and/or Best Film Editing. Even more so if you’re hoping for Best Actor and Best Actress wins. We haven’t had that happen since Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in 1997’s As Good As It Gets, which was nominated for Best Picture in a five-film year. While it was snubbed for Best Director, it did grab that editing nod as well as another acting nomination. Before that, it’s 1991’s Silence of the Lambs. Before that, 1982’s On Golden Pond.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. These were all top 5 films in their respective years (the list of films with any combination of double acting winners only underscores this) so logic would say that if you think both Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman are winning lead acting Oscars, you should probably make sure there’s a path for it to happen. That said, every year is its own bubble, this year more than any. Is Ma Rainey going to be a critical hit and a top five player? It was only two years ago that Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody were the big Oscar winners so maybe the question is, does it even need to be?
I keep bouncing Amy Adams around my Best Actress list like a Oxycontin in a pill bottle. Top 5 one month, plummeting to #10 the next. While I don’t think she holds the same narrative strength that her co-star Glenn Close does (with seven nominations to Adams’ six), once the trailer for Hillbilly Elegy dropped with its wall to wall ACTING, she’s back in the top 5. Plus, a plum Thanksgiving release is going to give plenty of turkey day mama drama.
I’m letting go of the idea that Olivia Colman will go lead for The Father. Obviously it could happen and it wouldn’t even be the worst Olivia Colman category fraud. I hope it doesn’t bite me in the ass.
What to do with Jennifer Hudson (Respect) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) though? It’s kind of wild that we have three films about great Black female singers and the one that the fewest people know about (Ma Rainey) is the frontrunner. Playing Aretha Franklin, and chosen by the legend herself, should give Hudson a leg up on her competition, plus she’s already an Oscar winner. For Day, Paramount Pictures has really been on the ropes lately, selling off a sure bet like The Trial of the Chicago 7 because it has no solid VOD plan, was a big tell. We have nothing to go on for Day; no official still, no trailer in sight, even the name isn’t official yet it’s still what we’re all calling it. What to do, what to do…
Here are my ranked 2021 Oscar predictions in Best Actress for October.
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. Jennifer Hudson – Respect (MGM/UA)
5. Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix)
6. Kate Winslet – Ammonite (Neon)
7. Andra Day – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Paramount Pictures)
8. Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead (Netflix)
9. Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)
10. Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit (Sony Pictures Classics)
Other Contenders: Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios), Nicole Beharie – Miss Juneteenth (Vertical Entertainment), Rachel Brosnahan – I’m Your Woman (Amazon Studios), Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix), Olivia Colman – The Father (Sony Pictures Classics), 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), Meryl Streep – The Prom (Netflix)