We're pretty much in the thick of things for Oscar prognostication. Fall festivals are in swing and the Best Actress race has now shown us its horses. With all likely contenders known, I'd like to break it down a bit to sort of take the pulse of Meryl's chances.
Firstly, if we simply look at Streep's performance and the quality of the film as reviewed by most critics, she's in terrific shape. Great to rave reviews for her performance and an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes place her in definite contention. Florence Foster Jenkins has by no means been a box office juggernaut, but it's sitting at a respectable $26.6m and will likely settle at a little over $27m. As a summer release, it'll be a tad more challenging to keep Meryl fresh in voters' minds, but she's done quite a bit of press for the film, something she typically only does when the picture can potentially make an awards push. With most of the above factors in her favor, she's still in my opinion going to be on the bubble.
Natalie Portman shot to the top of many people's list over the last week or two after Jackie debuted at Venice and Toronto. Viola Davis has been a strong contender from the moment it was announced earlier this year that Fences would get a theatrical release. Before I go any further, however, I'd like to provide the latest rankings from my go-to Oscar contention source, Awards Watch. The current monthly poll (190 voters) has the following top ten:
1. Emma Stone (La La Land) 94.74%
2. Natalie Portman (Jackie) 93.16%
3. Viola Davis (Fences) 88.95%
4. Amy Adams (Arrival) 68.95%
5. Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) 35.26%
6. Ruth Negga (Loving) 31.58%
7. Isabelle Huppert (Elle) 28.42%
8. Annette Bening (20th Century Women) 18.42%
9. Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals) 7.37%
10. Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) 6.32%
Ruth Negga for months hovered between 1st and 3rd, but with a few more films actually being seen, the sense I'm getting is that her role isn't flashy enough. That said, after two years of #OscarSoWhite, I wouldn't be at all surprised if both she and Davis made it in, which would be great. Emma Stone and Natalie Portman seem like the closest thing to locks at this point. Considering we haven't even seen a trailer yet for Fences, unless it appears to be a total pile of shit, Davis will be a lock as well.
I'm skeptical about Amy Adams. Despite fantastic reviews, the sci-fi subject matter of Arrival may be less Academy-friendly than many of the others on the above list. I'd be thrilled for Bening if she made the top five, but that's seeming less and less likely as the race begins to tighten. Keep your eye out for Jessica Chastain, however. Miss Sloane's gun control theme captures the zeitgeist. This film as well, however, has yet to be seen.
Ultimately, I'm glad there's a strong list of contenders, which means there's at least a viable, if not thriving crop of scripts for leading ladies on film. As more and more actresses move to TV for challenging parts, let's hope the trend continues regardless of whether the screen is big or small. If I had to guess now, I'd predict Meryl will squeak into the top five. A Golden Globe nod should be a cinch, and if we see Streep garner of SAG nod as well in December, she'll be in the best position possible for her 20th nomination.