Friday, January 1, 2021

The state of the race: 2021

Happy New Year!  I'm guessing few of us have been more excited to say goodbye to year than we are with 2020. Normally by January 1, we already have Golden Globe and SAG nominations a few weeks in the bag. Not in the year of Covid, however. Due to the pandemic, the film awards timeline if of course pushed back significantly. We won't see Globe and SAG noms until the week of February, and the Oscar ceremony isn't going to be until the last Sunday in April! That's going to seem so weird. 

So while we have a ways to go, I thought it a good time to do a little "lay of the land" in regard to the Best Actress race. I should start by stating I think Meryl is barely in the conversation this year. But the fact that she's likely to get a Golden Globe nod for her performance in The Prom, and that she is after all, herself, we can never really count her out. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that she'd get double-nommed in Comedy at the Globes (The Prom and Let Them All Talk), but there doesn't seem to be much buzz around the latter film, nor Meryl's performance--despite it having great reviews. 

The Oscars is where the real fun is though for following the race. The two main sources I use to follow current predictions are from Awards Worthy forums and Gold Derby. As this goes to post, the current top ten for both are as follows:

Awards Worthy: 

1. Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

2. Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

3. Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman

4. Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday

5. Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman

6. Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead

7. Kate Winslet (Ammonite)

8. Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always

9. Meryl Streep (The Prom

10. Zendaya (Malcolm and Marie)

Gold Derby:

1. Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

2. Frances McDormand (Nomadland

3. Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman

4. Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman

5. Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday

6. Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead

7. Kate Winslet (Ammonite

8. Meryl Streep (The Prom)  

9. Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always

10. Zendaya (Malcom and Marie)

Exact same top ten, exact same top five (although in slightly different orders). I've listed the one's I've seen up to this point in bold. With how similar these two lists are, I'm confident in saying this is the working group from which we can expect names to show up nomination morning. 

Although I'd most certainly prefer that going out to theaters were as safe as in previous years, I've been thankful that so many great films are available from home on streaming platforms. I'm most looking forward to seeing Nomadland. It's got overwhelmingly positive reviews and is a strong contender for Best Picture and Best Director (Chloé Zhao). 

Some people are suggesting that Viola Davis's role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom isn't big enough to be considered lead. I think that's silly, because 1) I've seen the film, and 2) that's never stopped a multitude of other actors in borderline roles from getting nominated, or even winning. It's a great performance by Davis in a baity role. I think the biggest advantage she has this year is that she's never won in lead, while McDormand has won twice, and recently. I'm picking Davis as of right now. 

Both Sophia Loren and Kate Winslet do lovely jobs in their films, but I definitely think Sophia Loren has a better chance. Her movie, while not in the English language, is very well-received by critics. She's also Hollywood royalty who hasn't been in consideration for a nomination in decades. Ammonite wasn't bad, but I think it needed to be amazing for Winslet to be a real contender here. I also felt that it was too close in tone to director Francis Lee's other recent queer drama, God's Own Country (one of my all-time favs) to feel fresh. 

Carey Mulligan is getting raves. Fun development as well: she's going Drama at the Globes. This greatly opens up chances for a Meryl win there, but I'm still skeptical. Maria Bakalova will probably win if she's put in lead for Borat Subequent Moviefilm. And deservedly. 

My guess is Sidney Flannigan's movie is too small for her to break through with the Academy. But I thought her performance was touching and wonderful. No one's seen Andra Day yet, and being that it's a Lee Daniels movie and Day's debut role, it really could go either way. If the film is great and Day is good to great, it's also a baity role. The Academy has gone bonkers for singer biopics as of late. Another reason Davis is in a good position here (even though Ma Rainey is actually an adaptation of an August Wilson play, not a traditional biopic). 

I'll be able to watch Vanessa Kirby's performance next week. She's sort of been trending down in recent weeks, but I loved her in the first two seasons of The Crown and would be tickled if she managed to squeeze in.

My prediction, ultimately, for the top five most likely to be nominated for an Oscar are, in descending order of likelihood of winning, are:

1. Viola Davis 

2. Frances McDormand

3. Carey Mulligan

4. Sophia Loren

5. Andra Day

Happy watching!


  1. I had the pleasure of seeing Frances in Nomadland at TIFF (virtually, of course!) and Frances is in this race big time. Intimate, moving film. And, as a result, I would love to see Meryl work with its director Chloe Zhao. Any bold predictions for Meryl news this year? (Personally, I'm betting on only one more film announcement, and her committing to another TV project)

    Happy New Year, Jeff!

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Darcy! Jealous you were able to see Nomadland already. Bummed it won't be available on streaming devices soon.

      I don't know if I have any bold predictions for Meryl this year. I'm hoping that Don't Look Up turns out good, and I'd like to get confirmation on whether Meryl actually does Babylon. Other than that, would LOVE a super meaty lead role in a drama with a great director. Todd Haynes, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Greta Gerwig, Jane Campion, or yes, Chloe Zhao.

  2. Happy New Year everyone!

    I wish Nomadland had been offered to Meryl - it sounds like one of those out-of-regular-comfort-zone you mentioned not so long ago Jeff!

    1. Happy New Year, Charlie!

      I might just end up including this movie on my 2020 recasting list! Alas, I think it would've been very unlikely that Meryl would've been offered the role. Frances McDormand produced the film after she and Zhao met and wanted to work together. It's time like this where it would be nice if Meryl went after things. But she still does pretty well ha.

  3. I personally have Let Them All Talk as my top 10 movies of the year as some of the critics do. I am pleasantly shocked the film is actually more about literature than friendship. Her best performance since the Post. Great way to end this year with such a subtle performance.

    1. Agreed. Meryl's been clocked in recent years for being to broad or showy at times. I tend to think it's just the nature of the roles, but it's a fair criticism.

      Let Them All Talk (and The Post for that matter) is an example of her ability and willingness to draw back when it's called for. It's a lovely performance.

      What if she surprises with double noms at the Globes for bot this and The Prom and then squeezes in at Oscars for Let Them All Talk?! Pretty far-fetched, but it's fun to dream.