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Ana de Armas and Michelle Williams Make a Showy Entrance Into the Best Actress Race

This year's Best Actress race is packed with Oscar-worthy performances that are commanding rather than subtle.

Blonde, Ana de Armas

“Blonde”

screenshot/Netflix

This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Actress predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 2023. And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.

Here, our Awards Editor, TV & Film Marcus Jones fills in for Anne Thompson on Oscars Predictions updates.

The State of the Race

The current theme of the Best Actress race is spectacle. The majority, if not all, of the frontrunners for the Oscar nomination boast performances that are the main draw of their films. There are even jokes being made about how certain billboards for “TÁR” have Cate Blanchett’s name as big as the title. And such marketing is not unwarranted either, since her portrayal of an artistic genius in decline is an absolute tour de force.

Similarly, Ana de Armas is currying favor for her captivating, surreal version of icon Marilyn Monroe in Netflix’s long-gestating release “Blonde.” Like Blanchett in “TÁR,” the up-and-comer proficiently commands viewers’ attention for nearly three hours, though the Andrew Dominik film as a whole is facing much harsher reviews. Still, the Academy enjoys a young breakout (think Vanessa Kirby’s recent Best Actress nomination for Netflix’s “Pieces of a Woman”), so de Armas is very much an Oscar contender even if all the other elements of “Blonde” are likely not.

However, this category has one frontrunner who has been gaining momentum since March. If the narrative around cinema in 2022 is focused on projects that remind us why we love this medium, the Best Actress contender who best fits that is Michelle Yeoh in the innovative multiversal action-comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which has been a surprise arthouse hit and generated much discussion about how underappreciated she has been for years. In the wake of a tribute to her work at TIFF, expect buzz around Yeoh to keep building.

And now the category has grown more competitive with Michelle Williams gunning for a nomination for her turn as a supportive mother to a burgeoning auteur in Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans.” (Some thought she would be submitted for Best Supporting Actress, but Universal has decided to take a more ambitious route.) Rounding out the movies-and-moviemaking trend, little is known about Damien Chazelle’s Old Hollywood-set “Babylon,” but its high-octane trailer indicates Margot Robbie’s performance could go far.

"The Woman King"

“The Woman King”

TriStar Pictures

Swinging in a completely different direction, Viola Davis’s work in “The Woman King” has a broader appeal than most of the aforementioned performances, as proven by the Sony historical epic overperforming at the box office on its opening weekend. The Oscar winner already has two Best Actress nominations under her belt, and continues to show another fascinating side of her, this time bulking up to become the indomitable leader of an all-female group of African warriors. Though it is mostly an action hero role, there are plenty of emotional layers to it, especially in all her scenes opposite talented newcomer Thuso Mbedu, that make a case for it deserving awards attention.

That leaves little room left for quieter performances. Talk of “Causeway” out of TIFF deems it a step in the right direction for Jennifer Lawrence, but likely not enough to reestablish her as an Oscars mainstay. It’s still unclear whether Rooney Mara will be elevated to a Best Actress campaign for her soulful performance in ensemble drama “Women Talking.” Danielle Deadwyler in “Till” and Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in “She Said” look very promising, but audiences won’t get a look at those performances until the New York Film Festival. However, it’s worth noting that they all would have to surpass Olivia Colman in “Empire of Light”— showy work that will likely net the British star her fourth Oscar nomination in the span of five years.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. No actor will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen the film.

Frontrunners:
Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”)
Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”)
Viola Davis (“The Woman King”)
Ana de Armas (“Blonde”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Contenders:
Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”)
Vicky Krieps (“Corsage”)
Jennifer Lawrence (“Causeway”)
Rooney Mara (“Women Talking”)
Carey Mulligan (“She Said”)
Keke Palmer (“Nope”)
Florence Pugh (“The Wonder”)
Margot Robbie (“Babylon”)
Emma Thompson (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”)
Tang Wei (“Decision to Leave”)
Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”)

Longshots:
Naomi Ackie (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”)
Juliette Binoche (“Both Sides of the Blade”)
Jessica Chastain (“The Good Nurse”)
Emma Corrin (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” “My Policeman”)
Charlbi Dean (“Triangle of Sadness”)
Zar Amir Ebrahimi (“Holy Spider”)
Greta Gerwig (“White Noise”)
Sally Hawkins (“The Lost King”)
Dakota Johnson (“Cha Cha Real Smooth”)
Zoe Kazan (“She Said”)
Taylor Russell (“Bones and All”)
Zoe Saldana (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
Lea Seydoux (“One Fine Morning”)
Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Menu”)

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