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Surprise Nominees Distract from Best Actress Oscar Race Between Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett remain far ahead in the Best Actress Oscar race despite a nominations day shake up.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, Michelle Yeoh, 2022.  ph: Allyson Riggs /© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, Michelle Yeoh, 2022. ph: Allyson Riggs /© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

Courtesy Everett Collection

This article contains IndieWire’s past 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.

We will update these predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  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.

See our initial thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

Well, that was unexpected.

One year after “House of Gucci” star Lady Gaga got a Best Actress nomination in just about every major televised precursor (BAFTA, SAG, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice Awards), but was left out of Oscars nominations, the same unfortunate bolt of lightning struck twice, hitting “The Woman King” star Viola Davis.

Not only were she and the crowd-pleasing historical epic she produced nominated for nothing, but rising star Danielle Deadwyler and her film “Till” went completely unrecognized as well, having also been overlooked by the Golden Globes. Both snubs seem to indicate that the Academy actors may not have watched the films, even though “The Woman King” was a global $95-million hit. Was it because these performances were in films directed by Black and/or female filmmakers? Also overlooked on nominations morning were Vicky Krieps (Marie Kreutzer’s “Corsage”) and Rooney Mara (Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking”).

Two surprise entries in Best Actress came from British “To Leslie” star Andrea Riseborough and “Blonde” Cuban-born actress Ana de Armas. To be fair, Davis and Deadwyler may not have inspired as much passion from voters as their rivals. The people who love Riseborough and de Armas’s performances really, really love them, so they very well could have been enough people’s top choice by the time they finally cast their ballots.

Though the Independent Spirit Awards were the first to nominate Riseborough in November, the groundswell of support from fellow actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet on social media right as nominations voting was happening seems to be the greatest contributor to the dependable “To Leslie” star receiving her very first Oscar nod. (Cate Blanchett also called her out when she won at the Critics Choice Awards.) De Armas was the more predictable nominee as she had been recognized by the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and SAG, even earning a ringing endorsement from Best Actor nominee Colin Farrell during his Globes acceptance speech for “The Banshees of Inisherin.”

But many thought the vulnerable player was non-SAG nominee Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”). The now five-time Oscar nominee also missed a BAFTA nod. However, the family drama written and directed by Steven Spielberg fared better with Oscar voters than it did with other awards bodies, and with fellow perennial nominee Davis out of the race, there could now be an even bigger push for Williams to finally win an Academy Award after decades of celebrated work.

But the truth is, this year’s Best Actress race is still between “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Michelle Yeoh and “TÁR” star Cate Blanchett. The duo has the lion’s share of Best Actress wins with critics, and both gave acceptance speeches at the 2023 Golden Globes. While Blanchett has the edge, her recognition has not come from awards voted on by people in the Academy. Three-time winner Frances McDormand aside, it is historically difficult to win Best Actress more than once, even if many consider her turn as menacing maestro Lydia Tár to be the best performance of her career so far. Meanwhile, this is international icon Yeoh’s first-ever Oscar nomination, and the first for an Asian actress.

Clearly, given Blanchett’s speeches this season, she’s rooting for another actress to win this year. What might be in Blanchett’s favor: Best Actress is the likeliest win for “TÁR,” which has six nominations including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay, while “Everything Everywhere” could win in many categories, especially Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan.

Nominees are listed below in order of likelihood they will win.

Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”)
Ana de Armas (“Blonde”)
Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”)

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