In one of the most competitive races for a Best Actress nomination in years, two stars of Best Picture contenders didn’t make it — five-time nominee Amy Adams (“Arrival”) and Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures”) — along with veteran Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”), who will have to wait for her fifth nomination.
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So which of the top five final contenders will win the Oscar? I rank them in order of likelihood:
Emma Stone, the “Birdman” nominee and Oscar frontrunner, came out of Venice (winning Best Actress), Telluride, and Toronto with raves for her role as an enchanting singer-dancer-actress in Damien Chazelle’s TIFF audience-winner “La La Land.” She went on to land Critics Choice, SAG, and BAFTA nominations, and took home Golden Globe and SAG Awards. The Oscar is hers to lose.
See this Telluride video of her and writer-director Damien Chazelle at the start of her awards journey.
Isabelle Huppert’s Golden Globe-winning dramatic performance in Paul Verhoeven’s taut mystery “Elle” (Sony Pictures Classics) debuted well at Cannes. The veteran French actress pulls off one of the year’s most challenging characters — a rape victim who refuses to let her abuse define her — as she claims her identity as an entrepreneur, mother, and sexually active older woman. The Academy occasionally embraces foreign actors in its acting categories (see: Marion Cotillard, Simone Signoret, Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Emmanuelle Riva), and could do so again. Huppert is long overdue.
Natalie Portman‘s performance in Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie” as the grieving widow of John F. Kennedy broke out at the fall festivals. (Fox Searchlight snapped it up for December release.) Critics raved and she won the Critics Choice Award, also landing Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Oscar nominations.
This marks Portman’s third Oscar nod; the fact that she won Best Actress in 2010 for Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” may weigh against another win this year. She told me about the challenges of nailing Kennedy’s peculiar accent and controlled emotions during an intensely isolated rite of passage:
Meryl Streep was already in the running for a record 20th nomination for channeling the hilariously entertaining tone-deaf opera singer and title character in Stephen Frears’ “Florence Foster Jenkins” before her rousing Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. But her surging popularity made another nomination for the three-time Oscar-winner a certainty. Streep won the Critics Choice Comedy Actress award, and also scored SAG and BAFTA nominations.
We spoke ahead of the release of “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Ruth Negga is this year’s breakout contender. Not only is the biracial Irish actress tearing up the small screen as the badass Tulip in AMC’s “Preacher,” but her first major role on the big screen earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Under the direction of Jeff Nichols, in “Loving” Negga delivers a refined portrayal of a woman battling race laws to live in peace with her husband (Joel Edgerton) and their children. She also landed Critics Choice, Globe, and BAFTA rising star nominations.