What’s usually one of the most competitive and difficult categories to predict, Best Actress feels…closed up? Am I crazy or is it locked with Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)? I don’t think so because I believe the difference between the #5 and #6 spots here is massive.
Only Kirby and McDormand managed to pull off all four precursors in this wild year. Both Mulligan and Davis missed BAFTA, shocking to say the least even with the jury voting system. Mulligan has dominated the critics’ picks this season, as has McDormand. With Day’s surprising Golden Globe win, that put her on the must-watch list for AMPAS members and we could be looking at the first time the Best Actress category has had two Black actresses in the same year since 1973 when Cicely Tyson (Sounder) and Diana Ross (Lady Sings the Blues) were both nominated. The best bit of trivia about that? Both Ross and Day played jazz legend Billie Holiday in their films.
Once you get past this group, not a single person has more than one precursor to give them an edge. Rosamund Pike (I Care A Lot) won the Globe over Maria Bakalova (who was put in lead there for Borat but supporting everywhere else), does that make her the closest spoiler? Feels like a stretch. I’d sooner go with a SAG nominee like Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy) or previous winner Sophia Loren.
While Loren (Netflix’s The Life Ahead), the first acting Oscar winner for a non-English language performance (1960’s Two Women), was seemingly back in the mix for her first nomination in 56 years (which would be a record) but her chances kept fizzling out. No Golden Globe, SAG, BFCA or BAFTA nomination, not a single critics’ win. Hard to see her be able to climb out of that over this group.
In slightly better shape, and also from Netflix, is SAG nominee Amy Adams. Both Adams and Loren made the BAFTA longlist but didn’t make the final cut of the 7-12 person jury. Each have an advantage over some other longshot possibilities; Loren’s film also has an original song contender from Diane Warren that’s a sure bet for a nomination and a possible winner. Adams has co-star Glenn Close in supporting actress, who also got Globe and Critics Choice nominations, and the film is getting a makeup nomination that’s a frontrunner to win. With two other Netflix actresses already locked in the mix, it feels like a stretch to get a third, even in a season that’s been dominated by the streaming giant.
Maybe AMPAS will be adventurous and give us an exciting, left-field choice like BAFTA and DGA First Time Director nominee Radha Blank or Spirit Award nominee Sidney Flanigan, whose performance in Never Rarely Sometimes Always earned her Boston and New York critics’ wins and the most breakthrough actor wins of the season.
Here are my final 2021 Oscar nomination predictions in Best Actress.
- 1. Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) – BFCA, GG, SAG
- 2. Andra Day – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Hulu) – BFCA, GG
- 3. Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) – GG, SAG
- 4. Frances McDormand – Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) – BAFTA, GG, SAG
- 5. Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman (Netflix) – BAFTA, GG, SAG
Watch out for: Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Ever (Focus Features)