As if Best Actress wasn’t already the best Oscar category, this year went and made it actually exciting, as least for now.
In a normal year (will we ever see that again, and what is “normal” now anyway?), we could quite easily track the progression of nominations, the trajectory of narrative and figure out a winner far ahead of even nominations sometimes. Not this season. This season decided to turn things on its head; from the non-existent Golden Globes ceremony to BAFTA’s second year of new rules (with yet another new rule attached as a response to last year’s high-profile snubs) which gave us the unprecedented in modern times result of absolutely zero crossover between the BAFTA and Oscar Best Actress nominations. As pundits and Oscar followers we often start to complain that things are “boring” or “predictable.” They certainly aren’t now.
Prevailing thought is that Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) will likely earn her second Best Actress Oscar, joining the likes of Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand with matching lead trophies. Her surprise win at the Globes gave most of us pause; we knew that Being the Ricardos was well-received within the industry after the early screenings of the film in November. SAG responded with noms for Kidman and Javier Bardem and then PGA said they love Lucy, too. Then Oscar nominations came in with a severely mixed bag for the film; three acting nods (including one for J.K. Simmons) but blanked everywhere else, not even a screenplay nomination. One interesting stat is that, since 1990, no film has earned two lead and one supporting acting Oscar nominations and missed Best Picture. Several have two leads and no BP, like What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas, Walk the Line and last year’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. That extra nod for Simmons is good for Kidman. Another potential benefit for her is also SAG this weekend. In six individual motion picture nominations there, she has yet to win (she has one for her television work on Big Little Lies). SAG loves to reward veterans and longtime previously unrewarded actors and that is in her favor here. Still lurking as a considerable disadvantage is that Kidman has won zero critics’ awards. None. She won AACTA, the Australian Academy Awards, but if she’s looking for a second win it’s going to have to adjacently mirror Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, who also was a critics’ no-show outside of a Teen Choice Award until she shamelessly won (tied) Critics’ Choice, the Globe, SAG and ultimately the Oscar.
Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) could also find herself with a very quick follow up win after triumphing three years ago here over the expected favorite, Glenn Close. Colman’s film performed…ok with nominations but the surprise supporting actress nod for Jessie Buckley, who plays the younger version of Colman’s character in flashbacks, could be a very interesting bellwether. If she were to surprise with a SAG win, beware.
No one translated grass roots self-promotion into a nomination more than Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) did this season. From her non-stop social media blitz to a Christmas video message as Tammy Faye, there was a bridge that Chastain wasn’t willing to cross to get her third nomination and it worked. That her performance is so closely tied to the makeup in the film, and that earned a nomination as well, there is room to think they might go hand in hand. Again, if she wins SAG, look out.
Kidman, Colman and Chastain are the only contender also nominated for SAG and each of them has a realistically fair shot to win. It’s likely going to Kidman but don’t be surprised by any of them.
So where does that leave Kristen Stewart (Spencer) and Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)? Both are here on passion votes and that can’t be underestimated. Stewart comes in with Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations but BAFTA and the Oscars blanked her film elsewhere. An actress winning as her film’s sole nomination used to be more de rigueur but when it happened it was usually a veteran who swept precursors (like Julianne Moore in 2014’s Still Alice, who co-starred with Stewart) or a huge deglam transformation in an undeniable performance (like Charlize Theron in 2003’s Monster). Stewart, while the dominate critics’ favorite, doesn’t have that behind her on her first nomination. Is she out of the running entirely? Probably not, no one really is here but after missing the Globe and only having CCA coming up it would be pretty unprecedented (but then, everything is this year). Cruz pulled off the impossible and got in with nothing but high-level critics’ wins from LAFCA and NSFC. Zero precursors and not even BAFTA-longlisted, her film also made the original score cut and was probably very close in original screenplay. Not to mention had Spain selected it for International Feature Film it would likely be in there, too.
If Kidman loses SAG then we go to Critics’ Choice, who will likely go for Kristen Stewart, then BAFTA, who have no choice but to award someone not Oscar-nominated. That will put us where we were last year when all four precursors went to different actresses. But in this case, BAFTA won’t be the oracle and with no one in a Best Picture-nominated film, the race would be wide open. And truly, it already is.
Precursor Watch: SAG is on February 27, Critics’ Choice and BAFTA are March 13. Oscar winner voting is March 17-22.
Here are my ranked 2022 Oscar predictions in Best Actress for February.
1. Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos (Amazon Studios) – GG, CCA, SAG
2. Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight Pictures) – GG, CCA, SAG
3. Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter (Netflix) – GG, CCA, SAG
4. Kristen Stewart – Spencer (NEON) – GG, CCA
5. Penélope Cruz – Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics)