The Best Actress Oscar Race: Who Will Be Nominated?

With Oscar nominations right around the corner, CinemaBlend is taking a look at which films and performances are likely to be in contention for nominations. Let’s look at a the Lead Actress race. 

Locked In

The Academy can’t resist lead performances from biopics, which is more apparent than ever with this year’s Best Actress hopefuls. Nicole Kidman is looking strong for her portrayal of Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos, especially after her Golden Globe win. Though this is the only win she has so far, her film has been performing well at guild awards like SAG, WGA, and PGA. This year’s Actress lineup doesn’t have a lot of candidates from Best Picture contenders, so love for the film overall could take Kidman far. 

Lady Gaga hasn’t lost an ounce of steam for her turn in the highest grossing drama of the year, House of Gucci. It seems the industry is more than ready to embrace Lady Gaga as an actress for the second time. Yet another biopic performance comes from Jessica Chastain, who plays Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Though her film struggled at the box office and received mixed reviews, the performance is easily one of the strongest in her career. She’s caked in makeup, she cries, she sings… it’s a high wire act that will be hard to pass up on.

Olivia Colman may be the only nominee who isn’t playing a real person for The Lost Daughter. The actress has quickly become an Academy darling, as this will likely be her third nomination in four years. Colman, Chastain, Gaga, and Kidman have been nominated at SAG, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice, which makes them about as secure for a nomination as one can be. 

Likely Bets

Just a month ago, Kristen Stewart was thought to be a frontrunner for the Oscar for her transformative performance as Princess Diana in the critically acclaimed Spencer. But then… SAG happened. Stewart was brutally snubbed, nearly destroying her chance at a win, and putting the prospect of a nomination in jeopardy. The snub seemed to confirm fears that Spencer wasn’t clicking with audiences, due to Pablo Larrain’s daring approach to what could have been another standard biopic. At worst, it says that the industry still doesn’t view Kristen Stewart as a serious actress. Still, the Academy is more likely to nominate performances from independent films than SAG, and her dozens of wins and nominations from critics groups and bodies like the Golden Globes should be enough to keep her safe. Though I can’t say I’m not worried. 

Dark Horses

Jennifer Hudson is a strong candidate for her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in Respect. She beat Stewart to the SAG nomination after all, but hasn’t received much recognition elsewhere. Mixed reception for her film, as well as its early release date, definitely makes her vulnerable in the way Taron Egerton was for Rocketman.  

Alana Haim is attached to a strong Best Picture contender with Licorice Pizza, and has received heaps of support from critics groups. It’s possible she sneaks her way into the lineup. This is her first appearance on the big screen, however, and she may struggle to compete with so many heavyweight biopic performances.

Rachel Zegler is in a similar situation to Alana Haim: she’s a newcomer attached to a Best Picture heavyweight (West Side Story). She hasn’t received the same level of recognition from critics groups as Haim, but she does have a Golden Globe win, so we can’t count her out. 

Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers has surprisingly gone unnoticed this awards season. Though a surprise seems possible, a red flag to me is her absence from the BAFTA longlist, where she couldn’t make it into a lineup of 15. Another non-English language performance that could surprise is Renate Reinsve for The Worst Person in the World. Odds are slim, but if the film has an unusually good day it’s not out of the question.

Check back here at CinemaBlend for more category breakdowns including Lead Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay.