Best Actress is always the most exciting race of the season even when it’s not. I mean, it’s actresses, the bread and butter of awards season (and all season) conversation.
Let’s look at the breakdown of critics’ wins so far (it’s still early) and how much they mean.
Kristen Stewart (Spencer) has a far out lead with seven wins (including one tie): Washington DC, Atlanta, Boston Online, Philadelphia, Phoenix, South Eastern and Chicago. It’s a good haul but to date what we call ‘regional’ wins (no shade). She’s already lost NBR and NYFCC and it would really benefit her perceived frontrunner status (and validate it) for Los Angeles or National Society of Film Critics to come through for her. LAFCA votes tomorrow, NSFC on January 8. Even if Stewart misses LAFCA she’ll still benefit from a rudderless season for Best Actress and one that has yet to land on a true overwhelming critics favorite and before the industry – SAG and BAFTA – has their say. Stewart also has Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations.
Jessica Chastain has picked up two wins for her portrayal of mascara’d televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Detroit and Las Vegas. She also earned Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations this week. First-time actress Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza) has grabbed a lot of ‘Breakthrough’ wins – NBR, tied with her co-star Cooper Hoffman, as well as Phoenix and Chicago and I wonder if that hurts more than helps her. She also tied with Stewart at Atlanta, won on her own with Boston and earned Golden Globe and Critics Choice nods this week. She’ll be directly competing with West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler for an ingenue spot here, but maybe there’s room for both.
Speaking of Zegler, she won NBR but that’s it so far. Not even a breakthrough critics win yet, something her supporting co-star Ariana DeBose was able to do. I don’t think that matters that much although she was relegated to a ‘Young Actor/Actress’ nomination from Critics Choice instead of a full-fledged Best Actress nomination, something Haim achieved. Here’s a fun fact: despite WSS director Steven Spielberg has only had two Best Actress nominees come from his films – Whoopi Goldberg for 1985’s The Color Purple and Meryl Streep for 2017’s The Post. The short answer as to why is that the overwhelming majority of Spielberg’s films are male-led or rarely have a female co-lead but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.
One of the season’s biggest surprises so far has been Lady Gaga’s win from the New York critics. NYFCC has often made some fun and left of center picks before but no one really saw this one coming and it vaulted Gaga’s chances in a very real way. She’s earned Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations but hasn’t landed a win since NYFCC and also hasn’t been heavily featured in group’s that also do nominations before announcing winners. One more thing in Gaga’s bag is House of Gucci‘s strong box office so far. An adult drama scoring in the ongoing pandemic era is a bit of a unicorn (ask The Last Duel, Nightmare Alley or any other adult drama this year) and I’m sure a section of voters will respond to that. She’s also giving us one of the wildest campaigns so far with each new interview about her work and process on HoG being crazier than the previous. Plus, Gaga is no Academy newbie; already a Best Actress nominee just three years ago and a winner for song, she’s now a known entity in the film world and that only helps her as we move next to SAG and BAFTA.
But here’s the fun part of Gaga and Zegler’s NYFCC and NBR wins and what they mean in this race. Only twice ever have both the NBR/NYFCC Best Actress winners missed out on an Oscar nomination: 1947: Deborah Kerr (NYFCC, Black Narcissus and I See a Dark Stranger) and Celia Johnson (NBR, This Happy Breed) and 1981: Glenda Jackson (NYFCC and NBR, Stevie). Neither Kerr nor Johnson were nominated at the Globes or BAFTA for their performances. Jackson, already a two-time Best Actress winner, earned a Globe nod but not BAFTA. Props to AW contributor Andrew Carden for digging up this gorgeous stat. All of this means that odds are awfully strong at least one of Lady Gaga or Rachel Zegler is making it.
Single wins were earned from Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) at Gotham and Tessa Thompson (Passing) from NYFCO but only Colman has GG and CCA nominations. Amazingly, both missed out on Spirit Awards nominations where their supporting counterparts made it in. Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) earned GG and CCA nominations but hasn’t factored into the critics’ race at all. Even less so has been Venice Best Actress winner and Oscar winner Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers. No Globe nod, no Critics Choice nod, no critics’ presence so far at all. Kidman and Cruz will need SAG and/or BAFTA to breathe life into their campaigns if they have hopes of a shot here, both of which are entirely possible.
Perhaps the biggest surprises of the season so far though has been the absolute blanking of Jennifer Hudson in Respect and Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth. Previously thought to be a potential frontrunner (even when the film was coming out last year), Hudson has had the lowest profile of any contender so far this season and reigning Best Actress winner McDormand has missed out where her double Oscar-winning co-star Denzel Washington hasn’t. No wins, no GG or Critics Choice nod, very few regional nomination lists for either.
Here are my ranked 2022 Best Actress Oscar predictions for December 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Kristen Stewart – Spencer (NEON) – GG, CCA ↔
2. Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight Pictures) – GG, CCA ↑
3. Lady Gaga – House of Gucci (MGM/UA) – GG, CCA ↑
4. Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter (Netflix) – GG, CCA ↔
5. Rachel Zegler – West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – GG ↑
6. Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos (Amazon) – GG, CCA ↓
7. Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA) – GG, CCA ↓
8. Penélope Cruz – Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) ↓
9. Frances McDormand – The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films) ↓
10. Jennifer Hudson – Respect (MGM/UA) ↓
Halle Berry – Bruised (Netflix)
Jodie Comer – The Last Duel (20th Century Studios)
Emilia Jones – CODA (Apple)
Jennifer Lawrence – Don’t Look Up (Netflix) – GG
Rooney Mara – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures)
Renate Reinsve – The Worst Person in the World (NEON)
Tessa Thompson – Passing (Netflix)