For the second year in a row, the Best Actress Oscar race looks more competitive than Best Actor. Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman could score for her canny schoolmarm in Sofia Coppola’s Civil War drama “The Beguiled,” while Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) is superb as a southern farmer’s wife in Dee Rees’ Sundance hit “Mudbound” (Netflix). Coming up this month is Sundance musical “Patti Cake$” (Fox Searchlight, August 18), starring Australian breakout Danielle Macdonald.
As the make-or-break fall festivals loom, Oscar-winner Kate Winslet (“The Reader”) could land an eighth nomination for either Woody Allen’s NYFF closer “Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios) or for survival drama “The Mountain Between Us” (Fox, October 6), opposite Idris Elba. Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”) also has two plummy roles, as an arthritic artist (SPC’s in-release “Maudie”) or a mute (Fox Searchlight’s festival entry “The Shape of Water,” December 8). Also performing in silence is Cannes discovery Millicent Simmonds, who stars in the silent-film portion of Todd Haynes’ New York Film Festival centerpiece “Wonderstruck” (Amazon, October 20).
Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence could follow Natalie Portman to an Oscar nod for her role in Darren Aronofsky’s wild and crazy Venice entry “Mother!” (On the other hand, Paramount moved up the release to September 15.) Also in festival play is twice-nominated Saoirse Ronan, who toplines Greta Gerwig’s feature debut “Lady Bird.” Oscar-winner Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love”) could land an eighth nomination for playing yet another queen of England in “Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features, September 22).
We have to wait for Christmas to see Meryl Streep as Washington Post owner Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg’s urgent political thriller “The Papers” (Fox, December 22) and for nominations morning in January to see if the most-nominated actress in Hollywood history will land a shot at her 21st Oscar nomination. (She has won three.)
Four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”) just entered the field with Sony Pictures Classics’ pickup of “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” which will have a gala premiere in Toronto. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Colin Vaines, the movie is directed by Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin”) and written by Matt Greenhalgh from Peter Turner’s memoir about his passionate 1978 affair with older Hollywood femme fatale Gloria Grahame (Bening). “Billy Elliot” star Jamie Bell costars with Julie Walters and Vanessa Redgrave. Sony Pictures Classics also released “Being Julia” (2004), for which Bening earned a Best Actress nomination.
For a closer look at the Best Actress race, here are my Predictions.