Monday, October 31, 2016

The state of the Best Actress race

Happy Halloween. With November a day away, we are in the thick of things for film awards prognostication.  The majority of movies in contention will be released between now and the end of the year.  With that in mind, I think it's a good idea to sort of take the pulse of the current Best Actress race and how Meryl factors into the conversation.

One of the biggest pieces of info and how it affects the race was the news last week that Viola Davis would be campaigned in supporting for Fences. This is a huge deal as far as Meryl's chances are concerned.  For months Davis has been hoavering around the top of the heap as most likely to get a lead nom, and with her out the picture, Streep's chances increase significantly.  The problem is that Meryl may have been sitting in 7th place before Davis's departure.  Let's break it down.

My go-to site for awards predictions is of course Awards Watch, and their predictions for the second half of October were as follows:

1. Natalie Portman-Jackie (96%; 234 votes)
2. Emma Stone-La La Land (95%; 233 votes)
3. Annette Bening-20th Century Women (78%; 190 votes)
4. Viola Davis-Fences (66%; 161 votes)
5. Amy Adams-Arrival (55%; 134 votes)
6. Isabelle Huppert-Elle (32%; 78 votes)
7. Meryl Streep-Florence Foster Jenkins (25%; 60 votes)
8. Ruth Negga-Loving (22%; 53 votes)
9. Jessica Chastain-Miss Sloane (10%; 24 votes)
10. Taraji P. Henson-Hidden Figures (3%; 8 votes)

It would be nice to see at least one non-white woman get nominated.  But as I've mentioned previously, despite many having praised Loving and its actors, some feel Negga's role just isn't juicy enough.  Bening has come on strong in the last month, likely due to her film having actually beeen seen and reviewed now.  20th Century Women doesn't go wide until Christmas, but I doubt her chances are going to depend much on box office.

Isabelle Huppert is looking for her first Oscar nom and French actresses have done well with the Academy over the last decade.  Arrival hits theaters next weekend so its expected box office clout can only help Amy Adams.  Regardless of Jessica Chastain's chances, I'm personally really looking forward to seeing Miss Sloane.  Coming in at 10th, it's nice to see Taraji P. Henson make the cut (get it, Cookie!), but she is indeed a very long shot.  The only two who seem untouchable are our leaders Natalie Portman and Emma Stone.  Of course we have to wait until December for both of their films, however.

Which brings us to Miss Meryl.  I'm less confident about her chances today than I was a month ago.  At that point, there were still a handful of performances that no one had seen.  Now, each of the top ten films have (with the exception of Hidden Figures) had reviews counted.  Before we knew the quality of certain films, it was easier to compare Meryl since we knew full well the quality of her performance and Florence Foster Jenkins the film.  It was quite possible that Annette Bening, Natalie Portman and Jessica Chastain would quickly fall out of contention had their films and/or performances been panned.

What Meryl has going for her, however, is an intangible quality that is so regularly recognized by her peers.  I have my own reasons for enjoying her, but it is clear that three generations of Academy voters revere her and her work.  Also, her performance in Florence is brilliant, and the film is a delight.  The big kicker is going to be the SAG nominations, which are announced  December 14.  I'm confident that a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy is in the bag (incidentally to be announced two days before SAG noms).

Worst case scenario is that Meryl is snubbed for Oscar and then a narrative builds for a stronger case the next time she has a lead film role.  Which will be...


  1. I watched "Hello, My Name Is Doris" the other night and was blown away by Sally Field's performance. The movie itself... not as good as FFJ but, as much as I adore Meryl, I'd rate Sally's performance higher. It troubles me that Sally is listed by most forecasters in the 10th-15th slot range.
    I've never been a Bening fan and fear she will have that "overdue" sympathy vote. I also question whether Amy Adams can be nominated for her film - a genre which rarely garners acting noms.
    If Meryl is fortunate enough to receive her 20th for FFJ, I shant complain, even if Field misses out.

  2. I am confident she will make it- Stone, Portman,Bening, Streep,and (Negga or Huppert)-
    No Adams or Chastain- Jamie

  3. I think Adams stands a very good short at a nom from what I've read. Not only is she films highly praised but her performance seems to carry the film. Plus her Nocturnal Animals movie provides a double whammy of well reviewed almost-end-of-year acting which will surely help.

    Jeff is absolutely right, with the strong reviews coming for Portman and Bening they will both likely get in too. We must also remember voters will be much more aware of casting votes for a purely white group this year. This could have a big effect on the high profile Best Actress 5th spot..

    If a lot of predictions are correct and Emma Stone wins this could means poor Amy Adams joins that very select group of 6-time losers and Bening goes 0-5 :(