Best Actress Nominees (90th Academy Awards)
This is a very very strong group of nominees this year. Five true leading roles in four Best Picture nominated films, and one that should have been, with two previous winners, two previous nominees, and two whose stars are still rising. It’s actually a pretty big shame that all of the suspense has been drained from the race by repeated wins at all of the previous awards shows by just one of these ladies. She even got on stage at one of the shows, clutched her award, and suggested that maybe people should consider voting for some of the younger nominees. Don’t worry, everybody will get equal time here at LeBlog.
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Perhaps the very best thing that Star Wars I – The Phantom Menace gave us was Sally Hawkins as an extra. Okay, so maybe the final light saber battle was fun enough to just edge her out, but you get my gist. Hawkins started her career in British theatre, performing in revivals of classics such as Romeo and Juliet, The Cherry Orchard, and Much Ado About Nothing before moving into film thanks to her work in small roles with director Mike Leigh in both All or Nothing and Vera Drake. Her profile began to grow steadily with appearances in the British crime drama Layer Cake and in a lesser Woody Allen film Cassandra’s Dream, but leapt into moderate international notoriety with her starring role in Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky. Her performance as an eccentric young woman and how her consistently optimistic reactions to the world color her interactions with those around her. The role was an excellent fit for Hawkins and won her a mountain of critical praise and awards, including the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Best Actress from the San Francisco Film Critics, and a Golden Globe. By 2014 she had received her first Academy Award nomination in the supporting category acting alongside Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. Of course most audiences probably know her from the Paddington movies now.
Experts’ Rank: 3
My Rank: 1
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And here is the 400 pound gorilla in this category. Frances McDormand is a wildly admired actress playing a woman who is raging against the injustice and cruelty she sees around her in her small town, taking on the authorities and those who would seek to silence her. It’s a very topical subject matter and story at a time in our society when reacting politely to inaction and platitudes is rightly observed to have been ineffective much of the time. When we watch McDormand’s Mildred Hayes cut a swath of vengeance and impatience through the people in her way it is easy to gain some catharsis in the process. Also, the performance itself maintains plenty of nuance and detail even as the character paints in broad strokes at times. McDormand rose to prominence in part due to her appearances in her husband Joel Coen’s films, with her first screen credit in his and his brother’s film Blood Simple. When she showed up in a small, and very different, role in their Raising Arizona, I took note. She has mostly appeared in supporting roles over the years, but when she has been given the chance in a lead role she has consistently delivered there too. If you haven’t yet, check her out with Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.
Experts’ Rank: 1
My Rank: 2
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Robbie is the latest in a long line of Australian actors and actresses to make the leap into international prominence. Her eye-popping beauty certainly didn’t hurt in getting her foot in the door, but once it was there she made a real impression with her bold performances as well. Most American audiences probably saw her first in the short-lived television show Pan Am, or as Leonardo DiCaprio’s provocative wife in Martin Scorsese’s divisive The Wolf of Wall Street. Any critics who hadn’t taken note of her there perked up in 2015 when she starred opposite Will Smith in the grifting flick Focus or later in that same year when her feminine appeal was put on satiric display to help tell some of the drier aspects of real estate law central to the plot of The Big Short. Even Suicide Squad was largely critically reviled, nobody seemed to lay the blame on her and she got plenty of attention as the popular character Harley Quinn. The pay days she has been winning have apparently already pit her into the producer’s seat, and her nominated performance in I, Tonya is for the first in a line of films which she is taking a lead in getting made.
Experts’ Rank: 4
My Rank: 5
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Don’t mind Saoirse Ronan. She’s just a twenty-three year old actress who already has her third Oscar nomination, despite the fact that nobody in the United States can pronounce her first name (it’s pronounced “ser-shuh” by the way). I have to admit that when I sat down a couple of years ago to see her Oscar-nominated performance in Brooklyn I was completely unaware that this was the same girl I’d seen in the excellent period drama Atonement eight years before in a role that had also won her a nomination. At this point, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if she might not just go ahead and take a run at Meryl Streep’s record number of acting nominations. After all, if she can play a teenager convincingly in her early twenties, who’s to say she won’t prove extremely versatile in other ways? Early in awards season she was considered one of the front runners to take home the little golden man, but the voters don’t appear to be looking for a dramatic reveal on the night of the ceremony. I guess they figure we got enough of that last year.
Experts’ Rank: 2
My Rank: 3
Meryl Streep – The Post
If Ronan is going to challenge Streep’s record a few decades from now, Streep herself will have to slow her own roll just a little, but that doesn’t seem like it’s about to happen. It’s not unreasonable to feel like Academy voters are in the bag for Streep and will nominate her for just about anything she does (anything but Ricki and the Flash that is), but for the most part when you actually take a look at these performances it’s not super easy to object based on their general quality. It bears stating that she was one of only a few actors in Best Picture nominee The Post who didn’t seem unnaturally aware of the camera. Seriously, what was going on on that set that was leaving the actors so distracted and unnatural? does that fact make her deserving of yet another nomination? Maybe not, but the fact that her performance was the primary thing the movie had going for it isn’t the worst argument in the world. Her naturalness, nuance, and freedom in a variety of imaginary contexts is consistently enviable to her fellow actors and when they keep seeing it in different colors working in different project styles, it’s no wonder that they keep including her on their ballots.
Experts’ Rank: 5
My Rank: 4
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