Like Best Actor, Best Actress is packed full of previous nominees and former winners in a very high stakes game that could be upset by at least one, if not two, ingenues; one with reviews to put her there and one yet to be seen but starring in an adaptation of one of the winningest films in Oscar history.
I’m talking bout Alana Haim in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza (which opens in NY and LA today, wider on Christmas Day) and Rachel Zegler in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (which screens for critics on the 29th and open wide in theaters on December 10). Haim already has the reviews, and for her feature film debut, no less. One third of the singer-songwriter sister trio HAIM, her naturalistic and easy breezy performance has captured critics and you can expect to see her on critics’ lists when those start rolling out in earnest over the next few weeks. But will it be enough for voters who will have the familiarity of names like Nicole Kidman, Frances McDormand and Jessica Chastain? It could be if either starts gobbling up those coastal and regional critics’ prizes, they’re in. When you look at the last few years of Best Actress, at least four of the five eventual Oscar nominees found themselves with an assortment of the big critic awards like NYFCC, LAFCA and NSFC in concert with regional wins. That mean a lot and even a high profile performance that seems like a lock can suddenly not be one if they aren’t able to land in or near the top 5 five critical favorites.
Rachel Zegler finds herself in an interesting situation; the original film adaptation of West Side Story in 1961 went on to win a whopping 10 Oscars from its 11 nominations including Best Picture, Best Director(s), and both supporting awards. Missing from that nomination list, however, was Natalie Wood as Maria, the film’s lead and the part Zegler now inherits. Wood didn’t earn a single mention for her performance (not even a Golden Globe) despite already being a nominee (for 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause) and, truth be told, her reviews weren’t there. Wood’s singing was dubbed by the legendary Marni Nixon and was painted daily to look more Puerto Rican, something that wouldn’t fly as well in 2021 as it did 50 years ago (although it still happens). Zegler’s mother is Colombian, which, while not Puerto Rican, is at least inching closer to more proper casting. Regardless, it’s going to have to be an undeniable performance for her to climb through and over seven acting Oscar winners and three nominees to do it.
Speaking of one of those winners, you’ll see that Nicole Kidman soars up to #2 this month for her superb portrayal of Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, which has received raves across the board. Plus, the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes love her. She may be Kristen Stewart’s main, if not only, challenger to the crown.
Here are my ranked 2022 Best Actress Oscar predictions for November 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Kristen Stewart – Spencer (NEON) ↔
2. Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos (Amazon) ↑
3. Penélope Cruz – Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) ↔
4. Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter (Netflix) ↔
5. Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight Pictures) ↑
6. Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA) ↑
7. Lady Gaga – House of Gucci (MGM/UA) ↓
8. Frances McDormand – The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films) ↓
9. Jennifer Hudson – Respect (MGM/UA) ↓
10. Rachel Zegler – West Side Story (20th Century Studios) ↑
Other contenders: Halle Berry – Bruised ↓ (Netflix), Jodie Comer – The Last Duel (20th Century Studios), Emilia Jones – CODA (Apple), Jennifer Lawrence – Don’t Look Up (Netflix), Rooney Mara – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures), Renate Reinsve – The Worst Person in the World ↓ (NEON), Tessa Thompson – Passing (Netflix)