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Awards Contenders: Actress



With the autumn film festivals largely winding down, a clearer picture of likely future awards contenders is emerging. The acting categories, particularly, are shaping up.

Although the SAG-AFTRA strike meant that few actors graced the red carpet at the premieres of the various festivals, it provided a better opportunity to focus solely on their performances rather than how funny they were at press conferences, how they worked the press line or whether they ‘deserve’ an award for some reason unrelated to their actual work in the particular film. Best Actress is looking exceptionally competitive this year.

Emma Stone

Within the festival bubble, the thinking is that not only will Stone be nominated, but she will win. She certainly performs blisteringly fearless and unrestrained in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things. Whether she’s inelegantly cramming multiple pastries into her mouth or engaging in full frontal nudity in the many sex scenes in the film, she is exuberantly uninhibited. A nomination is inevitable; a win will depend on whether voters like the film. It may also depend on whether they want to see the cute Emma Stone of La La Land in some of the more gratuitous scenes of Lanthimos’ imagination, which is an acquired taste.

Carey Mulligan

Sometimes referred to as the ‘always reliable Carey Mulligan’, she is in danger of Amy Adam’s curse of always being the bridesmaid, no matter how good her performance is. And it’s damn good in Bradley Cooper’s Maestro. Delivering vast chunks of dialogue in a way that commands attention, giving such a layered, intelligent take on a character that she steals the film from the titular lead, Mulligan is due a win and deserving of one. Very likely to be nominated. A win will depend on how strategically her campaign is run.

Lily Gladstone

Going toe to toe with two acting giants, De Niro and DiCaprio and coming out a winner is no mean feat. For a relative newcomer like Gladstone to do it when she has not led a big film before is even more impressive. She is the quiet but wise, serene but in inner turmoil, heart of Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. The film will be a big contender during awards season in several categories, which will only help her. Very likely to be nominated. A potential dark horse for a win.

Greta Lee

The affection for Past Lives is deserved. It’s the kind of romantic film, in the true sense of romance, that Hollywood has forgotten how to make. The film’s success has put its female lead, Greta Lee, in the spotlight, and she’s been touted as a possible awards contender. While the end scene and others stand out as tender and reflective, I will be surprised if Lee knocks out other, stronger candidates for a spot in the top 5.

Cailee Spaeny

Austin Butler’s electrifying Elvis was a guaranteed nominee last year. Spaeny’s delicate take on Elvis’ ex-wife, Priscilla, has been a festival favourite with many. Her progress through the film from schoolgirl to woman in her twenties is impressive, and she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Festival. How she will fare in a crowded best actress space during awards season will likely depend on how much of a splash the film makes. I assess that the impact is unlikely to be great. I’m predicting a commercial run similar to Spencer, which only made $25 million worldwide. Although Kristen Stewart pulled off multiple nominations from it, Spaeny, as a relative unknown, may not have sufficient momentum.

Sandra Hüller

Sandra Hüller gives a complex, shatteringly intense performance in Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall without ever resorting to melodrama or histrionics. With the much-acclaimed film Toni Erdmann behind her, this is likely her year to be recognised with nominations at significant international awards events.

Margot Robbie

The staggering box office success of Barbie, this year’s number 1 event movie, will probably be enough reward for Margot Robbie, who, as both star and producer of the film, can name her price and film now. But wouldn’t a nomination as Best Actress be the ultimate icing on the pink frosted cake? She practically brought a doll to life and gave her a personality, too. So, a Golden Globe must be calling, at the very least.

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren swept the awards board for her pitch-perfect portrayal of the late Queen Elizabeth ll. Can Golda, in which she plays the first prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, take her down the same triumphant route? Yes, according to one of the Hollywood insiders I consult about awards season. He is convinced she will or should be recognised for embodying the formidable prime minister. I have yet to see the film, but I never rule Helen Mirren out of any discussion about great acting.

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