By Tom O'Brien
Welcome to the third in our NBP series of the 10 best early Oscar contenders in each of the four acting categories. For the past two weeks, we have looked at the early contenders in the Supporting categories before the fall film festivals kick into high gear. This week, we turn our attention to the most likely contenders for Best Actress.
Just to address the rumor mill, there has been online speculation that two women whom we had listed as supporting contenders -- Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney in "Backseat" and Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in "The Favourite" -- might be pushed up to lead. Personally, I think it would be foolish for Adams to go lead because the best argument she has going for her is that a nomination this year would be her 6th without a win and that she's way overdue. However, going lead would likely put her up against Glenn Close ("The Wife"), for whom a nomination would be her 7th without a win -- even more overdue. As for Colman, she will be formidable wherever she's placed. So I'm leaving them both in supporting for now.
At this moment, here are the 10 women who, as we see it, stand the best chance of hearing their name on nomination morning. Click below to see the top contenders in alphabetical order.
Glenn Close - "The Wife"
No living actor has had more Oscar nominations without a win than Close. But with "The Wife," she has her best role in decades as a woman who considers herself a "kingmaker" when her husband (Jonathan Pryce) wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, yet she harbors a devastating secret of her own that could destroy him. Close gives a carefully modulated performance, simmering in the film's early scenes until the last 20 minutes when she really turns it up to a boil. Should Close prevail and win the Best Actress Oscar, many may dismiss it as some kind of sentimental vote. Ignore them. If she wins the Oscar for this performance, it will be based entirely on merit.
Toni Collette - "Hereditary"
It's not easy to earn a Best Actress nomination in a horror film. Ellen Burstyn managed to do it for 1973's "The Exorcist," Kathy Bates did it in 1990 for "Misery," and Jodie Foster actually won her second Oscar for 1992's Best Picture, "The Silence Of The Lambs." (Also, depending on your definition of horror, you might add Natalie Portman's 2010 win for "Black Swan.") But it doesn't happen often, so it's notable that Toni Collette's astonishing performance in "Hereditary" is still at the forefront of the Best Actress discussion for her slow and terrifying descent into madness. Whether she makes the final 5 remains to be seen, but she delivers the goods and certainly deserves to be there.
Viola Davis - "Widows"
We'll know more on September 8th when Steve McQueen's "Widows" premieres in Toronto as to whether the film is simply a commercial player or an awards contender. No matter which way the film goes, however, Davis looks dynamic as the leader of a group of widows determined to complete their late criminal husbands' last job. "Widows" would be her fourth Oscar nomination, including a win for 2016's "Fences," and with an Oscar winner such as McQueen at the helm, any bid by an actress as skilled as Davis must be taken seriously. As Oscar predictors say, once a winner, always a contender.
Nicole Kidman - "Destroyer"
This week, the first promotional photo for Nicole Kidman in Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer" was released, and the photo of a ragged Kidman looks worthy of an Oscar itself. In "Destroyer," Kidman portrays undercover cop Erin Bell who once infiltrated a California gang but the results proved to be tragic, a conclusion that has haunted her for the rest of her life. When the gang's leader re-emerges years later, Erin decides to go back to the remaining gang members to find some closure to her troubled life. This story is so far out of Kidman's comfort zone that it will likely get her Academy attention at the very least and respect if the film is as good as it seems to be.
Lady Gaga - "A Star Is Born"
Ever since the trailer to "A Star Is Born" was released two months ago, there has been enormous speculation about the Oscar prospects of Lady Gaga in her role as the newcomer on the rise. At this moment, a win for the Best Actress Golden Globe in the Musical/Comedy category is probably a given and will likely offer her a leg up toward making the final five nominees. If Gaga can get over that nomination hurdle, then the Oscar may be hers to lose if the final film delivers on what the trailer promises -- dramatic chops, romantic chemistry, and powerhouse vocals. We'll know more when "A Star Is Born" premieres in Venice on August 31.
Melissa McCarthy - "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
There's a long history of comic actors going dramatic and winning Oscars for their efforts -- from Red Buttons in "Sayonara" to Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting." So those Oscarologists who are pooh-poohing Melissa McCarthy's chances for a nomination as real-life literary forgerer Lee Israel in "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" with a script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty should pause and take a second look. McCarthy is already a member of the Oscar club, having received a nomination for 2011's "Bridesmaids," and by the time of the nominations, "The Happytime Murders" will be but a distant memory, all to McCarthy's benefit.
Julianne Moore - "Gloria Bell"
On Monday, A24 picked up Sebastián Lelio's ("A Fantastic Woman" & "Disobedience") English-language remake of his own 2013 film "Gloria" and announced that the film will have a Spring 2019 release. This means, of course, that it won't be eligible for this year's Oscars, right? Not so fast. The film premieres on September 7th in Toronto, and A24, which knows how to play the Oscar game, will soon decide if they have a Best Actress contender in star Julianne Moore which would require a one-week qualification run in December. We already know that Gloria is a baity part -- Chilean actress Paulina Garcia knocked it out of the park in the original -- and with Oscar winner Moore in the role of an older divorcée looking to begin a new life, we may have a major stealth contender here.
Carey Mulligan - "Wildlife"
If you can believe it, it's been nine years since Mulligan's prior Oscar nomination for "An Education." But, given the reviews from its screenings at this year's Sundance Film Festival, critics are calling her work in "Wildlife" the best of her career. Jeanette Brinson's (Mulligan) world turns upside down when her golf pro husband Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job and goes off to fight wildfires in Montana, leaving her feeling abandoned with their teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) and forced to begin a new life for them both. Joe, however, becomes concerned when he sees his mother becoming attracted to another man. Mulligan has done such good work since her last nomination that it's about time to see Mulligan's craft appreciated again by Oscar.
Saoirse Ronan - "Mary Queen Of Scots"
It may seem difficult to believe, but if Saoirse Ronan is nominated in the title role of "Mary Queen Of Scots," it will mark her fourth Oscar nomination by the ripe old age of 24. Yet if that 4th Oscar nod does happen, it would not be surprising, given how dominant she appears to be in the film's trailer. It is a delicious role -- Vanessa Redgrave was nominated as Mary in the 1971 retelling of the story -- that encompasses both the physical (Ronan is completely believable on horseback) and the dramatic (her confrontations with Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth absolutely crackle). Make no mistake about it -- Ronan is a major player once again.
Rachel Weisz - "The Favourite"
As Fox Searchlight wrestles with the category placement of co-stars Olivia Colman and Emma Stone, it is becoming clearer that Weisz is the main protagonist of Yorgos Lanthimos' film as Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, whose role of being chief suck-up to Queen Anne (Colman) is suddenly being threatened by the arrival of her cousin, Baroness Abigail Masham (Stone). Reactions to early screenings have indicated that the film has the making of an Academy favorite, and if so, Weisz, who won her first Oscar for 2005's "The Constant Gardener," may need to clear shelf space for a second Academy Award.
This is, of course, not a definitive list. We've all been through enough Oscar races to know that, at this early stage, the fortunes of some unknowns will rise and those of some early favorites will fall. So let's call this a snapshot of where the Best Actress category is at this moment, and we'll follow every shift in the contest here at Next Best Picture.
Next week we'll look at the likely candidates for Best Actor. And please take a moment to also check out our Oscar Predictions across other categories here.
You can follow Tom and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @thomaseobrien
Parasite (30) - AACTA, AFCA, AFCC, AWFJ, BOFCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, DFCS, GALECA, GFCA, HFCS, LAFCA, LEJA, LFCC, NCFCA, NSFC, NYFCO, OAFFC, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, PCC, SAG, SEFCA, SFCS, TFCA, UFCA, VFCC, WAFCA
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (10) - CCA, GG, HFCS, IFCA, IPA, LVFCS, NDFS, OFCC, SFBAFCC, StLFCA
1917 (8) - BAFTA, DFCS, DFWFCA, GG, HCA, KCFCC, MCFCA, PGA
The Irishman (5) - AARP, NBR, NTFCA, NYFCC, SDFCS
Marriage Story (5) - DFCC, GWNYFCA, IFJA, IFP, NFCS
Knives Out (2) - CIC, PFCC
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (2) - FFCC, WFCC
Dolemite Is My Name - BFCC
The Farewell - SPIRIT
Ford v Ferrari - IPA
For Sama - BIFA
Harriet - WFCC
Joker - PFCS
Little Women - BSFC
Us - AAFCA
Bong Joon-ho (30) - AFCA, AFCC, AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, GALECA, GFCA, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, LAFCA, LEJA, LFCC, NCFCA, NDFS, NYFCO, OAFFC, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, PCC, SFBAFCC, SFCS, TFCA, VFCC, WAFCA
Sam Mendes (11) - BAFTA, CCA, DFCS, DFWFCA, DGA, GG, KCFCC, MCFCA, NTFCA, PFCS, UFCA
Martin Scorsese (7) - AARP, BFCC, DFCC, DFCS, OFCC, PFCC, SEFCA
Quentin Tarantino (6) - AACTA, HFCS, IFCA, LVFCS, NBR, StLFCA
Josh & Benny Safdie (3) - NYFCC, SDFCS, SPIRIT
Noah Baumbach (2) - HCA, NFCS
Greta Gerwig (2) - CIC, NSFC
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre - IFP
Kassi Lemmons - BFCC
James Mangold - IPA
Jordan Peele - AAFCA
Celine Sciamma - FFCC
Olivia Wilde - HCA
Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts - BIFA
Adam Driver (31) - AACTA, AFCC, AWFJ, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, DFCC, DFCS, DFWFCA, FFCC, GFCA, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, IFP, KCFCC, NCFCA, NFCS, OAFFC, OFCS, OFTA, PCC, PFCC, SDFCS, SEFCA, SFCS, TFCA, UFCA, VFCC, WAFCA, WFCC
Joaquin Phoenix (17) - BAFTA, CCA, DFCS, GG, HCA, HFCS, IFCA, LEJA, LFCC, MCFCA, NDFS, NTFCA, NYFCO, OSCAR, PFCS, SAG, SDFCS
Adam Sandler (9) - AARP, AFCA, BOFCA, BSFC, LVFCS, NBR, OFCC, SPIRIT, StLFCA
Antonio Banderas (6) - EFA, GALECA, LAFCA, NSFC, NYFCC, SFBAFCC
Taron Egerton (2) - GG, IPA
Eddie Murphy (2) - AAFCA, BFCC
Christian Bale - IPA
Josh O'Connor - BIFA
Lupita Nyong'o (28) - AFCA, AAFCA, AWFJ, BFCC, BOFCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, FFCC, GFCA, HCA, IFJA, KCFCC, LAFCA, MCFCA, NCFCA, NYFCC, NYFCO, OFCC, OFCS, OFTA, PCC, SDFCS, SFBAFCC, SFCS, TFCA, WAFCA, WFCC
Renée Zellweger (17) - AARP, AFCC, BAFTA, BIFA, CCA, GALECA, GG, HFCS, IFCA, LFCC, LVFCS, NBR, OSCAR, PFCS, SAG, SEFCA, SPIRIT
Scarlett Johansson (12) - DFCC, DFCS, DFCS, DFWFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, IPA, NFCS, OAFCC, StLFCA, UFCA, VFCC
Awkwafina (5) - GG, HFCS, IFP, IPA, LEJA
Mary Kay Place (2) - LAFCA, NSFC
Saoirse Ronan (2) - AACTA, BSFC
Charlize Theron (2) - NFCS, NTFCA
Cynthia Erivo - WFCC
Florence Pugh - NDFS
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Brad Pitt (36) - AACTA, AFCA, AFCC, AWFJ, BAFTA, BFCC, BOFCA, BSFC, CCA, CFCA, DFCS, DFWFCA, GG, HFCS, HFCS, IFCA, LEJA, MCFCA, NBR, NCFCA, NSFC, OFCC, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, PFCC, PFCS, SAG, SDFCS, SEFCA, SFBAFCC, StLFCA, TFCA, VFCC, WAFCA
Joe Pesci (13) - DFCS, FFCC, GFCA, GWNYFCA, HCA, KCFCC, LFCC, NFCS, NYFCC, NYFCO, PFCC, SDFCS, UFCA
Willem Dafoe (7) - COFCA, IFJA, IPA, LVFCS, NDFS, SFCS, SPIRIT
Song Kang-ho (4) - CIC, GALECA, LAFCA, PCC
Tom Hanks (2) - AARP, NTFCA
Jamie Foxx - AAFCA
Shia LaBeouf - OAFCC
Hugh Laurie - BIFA
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Laura Dern (23) - AARP, AFCC, BAFTA, BSFC, CCA, DFCS, DFCS, DFWFCA, FFCC, GG, HFCS, IFCA, LFCC, NDFS, NSFC, NYFCC, NYFCO, OSCAR, PFCS, SAG, SEFCA, TFCA, VFCC
Jennifer Lopez (15) - AFCA, GALECA, HCA, IFJA, IPA, LAFCA, LEJA, NFCS, OAFFC, OFCC, OFCS, OFTA, SFBAFCC, SFCS, WAFCA
Florence Pugh (11) - AWFJ, BOFCA, CFCA, COFCA, DFCS, GFCA, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, MCFCA, NCFCA, UFCA
Zhao Shuzhen (5) - CIC, HFCS, NTFCA, SDFCS, SPIRIT
Da'Vine Joy Randolph (3) - AAFCA, BFCC, KCFCC
Margot Robbie (3) - AACTA, LVFCS, StLFCA
Kathy Bates - NBR
Ruthxjiah Bellenea - BIFA
Thomasin McKenzie - PCC
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Little Women (17) - AFCA, AWFJ, BOFCA, CCA, CIC, COFCA, DFCS, FFCC, IFJA, KCFCC, LEJA, NCFCA, OFTA, UFCA, USC, WAFCA, WFCC
The Irishman (10) - BFCC, GFCA, GWNYFCA, HFCS, NBR, OFCC, OFCS, SEFCA, StLFCA, TFCA
Jojo Rabbit (9) - AACTA, BAFTA, HCA, NFCS, OAFFC, OSCAR, PFCS, SFBAFCC, WGA
Joker - IPA
Luce - SDFCS
The Personal History Of David Copperfield - BIFA
The Two Popes - LVFCS
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Parasite (23) - AFCA, AAFCA, AFCC, AWFJ, BAFTA, CFCA, COFCA, GALECA, GFCA, HCA, LEJA, MCFCA, NCFCA, NSFC, NYFCO, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, SEFCA, SFBAFCC, SFCS, UFCA, WGA
Marriage Story (16) - AARP, DFCC, DFCS, DFWFCA, GWNYFCA, IFJA, IFP, IPA, LAFCA, LFCC, OAFFC, SDFCS, SPIRIT, StLFCA, VFCC, WAFCA
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (10) - BOFCA, BSFC, CCA, GG, HFCS, LVFCS, NDFS, NFCS, NYFCC, StLFCA
Knives Out (8) - CIC, DFCS, HFCS, KCFCC, OFCC, PCC, PFCC, PFCS
Uncut Gems (2) - FFCC, NBR
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire - EFA
Queen & Slim - BFCC
1917 (37) - AFCA, AFCC, ASC, AWFJ, BAFTA, BFCC, CCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, DFWFCA, FFCC, GFCA, HCA, HFCS, HFCS, IPA, KCFCC, LEJA, LVFCS, MCFCA, NCFCA, NFCS, NTFCA, NYFCO, OAFFC, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, PCC, PFCS, SEFCA, SFBAFCC, SFCS, StLFCA, UFCA, WAFCA
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (5) - BSFC, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, NSFC, NYFCC
The Lighthouse (4) - NDFS, PFCC, SDFCS, SPIRIT
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2) - BOFCA, OFCC
Ad Astra - DFCC
Beats - BIFA
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Dolemite Is My Name (8) - CCA, CIC, IPA, LEJA, LVFCS, OFTA, SDFCS, SFCS
Little Women (3) - BAFTA, CFCA, OSCAR
Rocketman (3) - HCA, HFCS, PFCS
Jojo Rabbit - CDGA
Knives Out - CDGA
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil - CDGA
The Personal History Of David Copperfield - BIFA
BEST FILM EDITING
Ford v Ferrari (7) - BAFTA, IPA, LVFCS, OSCAR, SDFCS, SFBAFCC, WAFCA
1917 (5) - CCA, CIC, HCA, MCFCA, PFCS
The Irishman (4) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA
Parasite (4) - ACE, LEJA, OFCS, OFTA
Uncut Gems (4) - AFCA, GWNYFCA, SFCS, SPIRIT
Apollo 11 (3) - ACE, LAFCA, UFCA
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2) - HFCS, StLFCA
For Sama - BIFA
Jojo Rabbit - ACE
Knives Out - COFCA
The Lighthouse - NDFS
Toy Story 4 - ACE
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Bombshell (8) - BAFTA, CCA, CIC, HCA, LEJA, MUAHS, OFTA, OSCAR
Joker (2) - HFCS, MUAHS
Downton Abbey - MUAHS
The Personal History Of David Copperfield - BIFA
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Joker (12) - BAFTA, CCA, DFCS, GFCA, GG, HCA, HFCS, IPA, LVFCS, NDFS, OSCAR, PCC
1917 (10) - AFCA, AFCC, DFWFCA, HFCS, IFCA, LEJA, MCFCA, OFTA, PFCS, StLFCA
Us (5) - CIC, COFCA, IFJA, OFCS, WAFCA
Uncut Gems (4) - BOFCA, FFCC, OFCC, SFCS
Little Women (2) - BSFC, CFCA
Apollo 11 - UFCA
I Lost My Body - LAFCA
The Last Black Man In San Francisco - SFBAFCC
Marriage Story - GWNYFCA
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Rocketman (8) - CCA, GG, HFCS, IPA, LEJA, MCFCA, OFTA, OSCAR
Wild Rose (7) - BIFA, CCA, DFCS, GFCA, HCA, HFCS, NDFS
Always Be My Maybe - CIC
Frozen II - PFCS
Harriet - LVFCS
Toy Story 4 - IFCA
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (14) - ADG, CCA, CFCA, FFCC, LAFCA, LVFCS, MCFCA, NDFS, NFCS, OSCAR, SFBAFCC, SFCS, StLFCA, WAFCA
1917 (5) - BAFTA, GFCA, LEJA, PFCS, SDFCS
Parasite (3) - ADG, HFCS, OFTA
Avengers: Endgame - ADG
Knives Out - CIC
Motherless Brooklyn - IPA
The Personal History Of David Copperfield - BIFA
BEST SOUND EDITING
1917 (5) - BAFTA, LEJA, MCFCA, MPSE, OFTA
Ford v Ferrari (4) - HFCS, IPA, MPSE, OSCAR
BEST SOUND MIXING
1917 (5) - BAFTA, LEJA, MCFCA, OFTA, OSCAR
Ford v Ferrari (3) - CAS, HFCS, IPA
Beats - BIFA
Toy Story 4 - CAS
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Endgame (9) - CCA, HCA, LEJA, LVFCS, NCFCA, NFCS, OFTA, PFCS, StLFCA
1917 (5) - BAFTA, CIC, DFCS, HFCS, OSCAR
Ad Astra (3) - CFCA, SDFCS, SFCS
Alita: Battle Angel (3) - FFCC, HFCS, IPA
The Irishman - VES
The Lion King - VES
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Toy Story 4 (32) - AFCC, BOFCA, CCA, CFCA, COFCA, DFCS, DFCS, DFWFCA, GFCA, GWNYFCA, HCA, HFCS, HFCS, IFCA, KCFCC, LEJA, MCFCA, NCFCA, NFCS, NTFCA, OAFFC, OFCC, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, PCC, PFCC, PFCS, SEFCA, SFCS, StLFCA, WAFCA
I Lost My Body (13) - AFCA, AWFJ, BFCC, BSFC, CIC, FFCC, LAFCA, NDFS, NYFCC, NYFCO, SDFCS, SFBAFCC, UFCA
Missing Link (3) - GG, LVFCS, TFCA
Klaus (2) - ANNIE, BAFTA
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2) - IFJA, NBR
Abominable - AAFCA
The Lion King - IPA
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Parasite (49) - AFCA, AAFCA, AFCC, AWFJ, BAFTA, BFCC, BIFA, BOFCA, BSFC, CCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, DFCS, DFWFCA, GALECA, GFCA, GG, GWNYFCA, HCA, HFCS, HFCS, IFJA, KCFCC, LEJA, LVFCS, MCFCA, NBR, NCFCA, NDFS, NTFCA, NYFCC, OFCC, OFCS, OFTA, OSCAR, PCC, PFCC, PFCS, SDFCS, SEFCA, SFBAFCC, SFCS, SPIRIT, StLFCA, TFCA, UFCA, VFCC, WAFCA
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (4) - FFCC, LFCC, NYFCO, WFCC
Pain and Glory (2) - AARP, LAFCA
Truth and Justice - IPA
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Apollo 11 (36) - AFCA, AFCC, AWFJ, BOFCA, CCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, DFCC, DFCS, DFWFCA, FFCC, GFCA, GWNYFCA, HCA, HFCS, HFCS, IFCA, KCFCC, LVFCS, MCFCA, NCFCA, NFCS, NTFCA, NYFCO, OAFFC, OFCS, OFTA, PCC, PFCC, SEFCA, SFBAFCC, SFCS, StLFCA, UFCA, WAFCA
Honeyland (7) - BSFC, DFCS, GALECA, NDFS, NSFC, NYFCC, VFCC
American Factory (6) - IFP, LAFCA, OFCC, OSCAR, SPIRIT, TFCA
For Sama (6) - BAFTA, BIFA, EFA, IDA, IFJA, LFCC
One Child Nation (2) - PFCS, SDFCS
63 Up - IPA
Amazing Grace - KCFCC
The Black Godfather - AAFCA
Knock Down The House - LEJA
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice - AARP
Maiden - NBR
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am - BFCC