Ranking the Nominees and Predicting the Winner for Best Actress
Each day leading up to the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 26 Shrink Tank will profile one of the major categories, ranking the nominees for their work and predicting who will walk away with a shiny gold statue. Today we profile the Best Actress race.
Best Actress is the one category I have been unable to watch all the nominees in their films. One film has not been available to view in my area (Elle) and another just became available for purchase yesterday (Jackie). I have not heard from anyone who champions the film Jackie, so I have been ambivalent about paying $20 just to see Portman’s performance. I also do not support pirated films and refuse to watch the movie for free.
So this will be my one incomplete ranking. Although I haven’t seen forty percent of the nominated performances, I must state my disappointment that Hailey Steinfeld did not secure a nomination for her outstanding performance in Edge of Seventeen. She gave one of the best performances of the year. I also believe Amy Adams (Arrival), Alicia Vikander (The Light Between Oceans), and Susan Sarandon (The Meddler) all gave performances this year which were more noteworthy than one of the women on this list.
One big silver lining for me that all the nominees for this category are the centerpiece of their film. They do not play second fiddle to the male actors. That is a rare occurrence in Hollywood and for the academy. Here is how I would rank the performances that I was able to see.
Natalie Portman and Isabelle Huppert – No comment or ranking
3. Meryl Streep
Florence Foster Jenkins is a fun and enjoyable film, and the character of Florence is a complex woman that is entitled but kindhearted. She’s the worst singer in the world but surrounds herself in a society and social group that enables her devotion to music. And Meryl does her Meryl thing (meaning she’s reliably good), but I thought the film’s strength was depicting how others tiptoe around and find ways to enable her lifelong love of music while taking advantage of her generosity. Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg had the harder assignments in this film and I can’t help but feel like Meryl’s stature stole this nomination away from a younger, more deserving actress.
2. Ruth Negga
This film is quiet and deliberate and at the center of it is Ruth Negga’s sublime and confident portrayal of Mildred Loving, one half of a Virginia couple that took to the Supreme Court to reverse laws banning interracial marriage in America. Director Jeff Nichols’s boldness is that he doesn’t infuse the film or the real-life characters with any histrionics or bombast. They are simple Virginia folks that just want to be able to love who they love without interference. In Negga’s hands, Mildred is elegant and optimistic to the point where it’s beguiling to the audience. The academy rarely champions such subtle and nuanced performances, especially from actresses. I am delighted that her performance and Negga herself is being honored, but she has zero chance of winning because her performance lacks “that Oscar® moment” that often propels actors to the podium come Oscar night.
1. Emma Stone
She can act, sing, and dance. And all the while her grace and vulnerability sucks the audience in and you root for Mia to succeed in Hollywood. The rejection she experiences and self-doubt she feels is transferred to the audience. You want her to succeed, and when she does, the audience feels the bittersweet reality of her success. I was not prepared for how much La La Land succeeds largely because Damien Chazelle found the perfect actress to anchor an old-school musical that doesn’t adhere to traditional happy endings of Hollywood past.
PREDICTION: Despite some of the frontrunner backlash that La La Land is experiencing, none of that seems to be directed at Emma Stone. She is respected in the industry, hasn’t had a misstep with the press, and most importantly, hers is the only performance coming from a Best Picture nominee. In addition to giving the best performance, the best argument for her win is that she elevates her film in a way that the other performances don’t.
WINNER: Emma Stone
Next up tomorrow: Best Actor.
The 89th Academy Awards® will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be broadcast live on the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST.
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