It’s a crowded category this year, like last, when even Annette Bening and Amy Adams didn’t make the cut. Again, there will be tears before bedtime. “Blue Jasmine” Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins gives two heartbreaking performances this year: the first as real-life arthritic painter Maud Lewis in “Maudie” (Sony Pictures Classics, June 16) will feed her second, the luminous mute performance in Guillermo del Toro’s fall festival hit “The Shape of Water” (December 1, Fox Searchlight). Also breaking out at the fall festivals was “Brooklyn” and “Atonement” nominee Saoirse Ronan, who stars as a rebellious high school senior in rookie director Greta Gerwig’s specialty hit “Lady Bird.”
Cannes 2017 revealed more clues, as Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”) won a special award for her four films there, including her resilient schoolmistress in Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled.” She could earn a fifth Oscar nomination following her Emmy win for “Big Little Lies.” And Diane Kruger took home Best Actress for Fatih Akin’s intense revenge thriller “In the Fade” (Magnolia Pictures), the German submission for the Oscar.
And the ceiling-smashing $103-million opening of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” pushed Israeli star Gal Gadot — who had already scored in “Batman v. Superman”– into global stardom. She earned raves for the winning warmth she brought to superhero Wonder Woman and human-scale Diana Prince, and is a long-shot for a nomination, as comic-book spectacles don’t tend to extend to acting nods.
Sony Pictures Classics picked up Paul McGuigan’s Telluride and TIFF gala “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool,” starring Bening as Hollywood star Gloria Grahame, who in 1978 plunged into an affair with a younger lover (Jamie Bell). Oscar voters now get a chance to make up for leaving Bening out last year.
Kate Winslet stars in Woody Allen’s New York Film Festival closer “Wonder Wheel” (December 1, Amazon Studios), which could reveal whether Winslet could enjoy the same kind of awards season run that Cate Blanchett had in the lead-up to her “Blue Jasmine” win. And Jessica Chastain plays real women in both World War II indie hit “Zookeeper’s Wife” (Focus Features) and Aaron Sorkin’s poker wrangler in TIFF hit “Molly’s Game” (December 25, STX). Also breaking out at TIFF was Margot Robbie in the colorfully athletic title role in “I, Tonya,” a portrait of tough-as-nails figure skater Tonya Harding.
Courtesy of STXfilms
Stephen Frears directs the magnificent Dame Judi Dench as an aged Queen of England in “Victoria and Abdul” (September 22, Focus Features). Oscar-winner Frances McDormand (“Fargo”) is back in the Oscar hunt as a single mother whose grief over her raped and murdered daughter turns to anger in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (November 10, Fox Searchlight). And the combo of Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg with Watergate drama “The Post” (Fox, December 22) could yield Oscar gold.
With so many robust competitors, actresses in stronger movies may wind up in better shape than worthy competitors in weaker movies.
A list of (alphabetical) possibilities is below. None will be considered for Frontrunner until I see them.
Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”)
Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri”)
Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”)
Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”)
Meryl Streep (“The Post”)
Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”)
Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”)
Judi Dench (“Victoria & Abdul”)
Kate Winslet (“Wonder Wheel”)
Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”)
Nicole Kidman (“The Beguiled”)
Diane Kruger (“In the Fade”)
Daniela Vega (“A Fantastic Woman”)
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