Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
As the award season began, it became clear that La La Land was the favourite. Gaining a plethora of nominations from a range of different award shows, the sweep began for the musical. Yet, to begin with, the film was defined more by its artistry than its acting and many questioned whether Emma Stone would be able to take any major awards. One week out from the Oscars and she has instead won nearly every single one. The discussion of whether Stone would only win due to a La La Land sweep is now over and we can practically confirm she will win the Best Actress Oscar. Of course, there is the chance of an upset, but considering Stone has won nearly ever precursor, has great appeal, represents a new generation of actors who can balance mainstream and indie film, and finally has already got an Oscar nomination, it looks like she is a lock.
So who could take the steal? My pick is Isabelle Huppert, even though she doesn’t have momentum from the BAFTAs or SAG; Huppert was ineligible for the BAFTA and was snubbed for the SAG, but should still appeal to the wider foreign acting community. Marion Cotillard (another French actress) was able to take the Oscar without a SAG nomination, though she did win the BAFTA. So while Huppert does have a lot working against her it is important to remember that she did beat out Portman and Negga to win the Golden Globe and she does play a character that has become one of 2016’s female icons in film. Considering the political climate, voters may want to award a woman who plays an empowering character over Stone who plays a wannabe actress (though still a very complex and relatable one). But this also works in favour of Natalie Portman playing Jackie Kennedy. As one of the most famous First Ladies of all time, Kennedy still has an incredible effect on current political families, something the Academy may be entranced by. Yet, Portman has not won any major awards and has lost all momentum she had a couple of months ago.
The two wild cards here are Ruth Negga and Meryl Streep. It seems Negga is unlikely to win with Loving seriously underperforming and on very few people’s radars, while Streep could surprise to take her fourth Oscar. Streep was not considered a potential Oscar nominee until only a couple of months ago as she went on to gain a few nominations here and there. When she got a Golden Globe nomination it seemed like an obligation (Steep has 20 GG noms), and as predicted, she didn’t win. However, the speech she gave, after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, will likely go down as one of the most famous (or infamous) speeches in not just award history, but one of the most memorable speeches of this decade. Attacking Trump’s administration in front of a largely liberal audience propelled Streep up the Oscar rankings and is considered a main reason she received a nomination. It is possible she could have been nominated without the speech (having received BAFTA and SAG noms), but this solidified her chances and made people actually go see Florence Foster Jenkins, rather than voting for her because of who she is. If the Academy wants to go super political and defy Trump, then giving the award to Streep seems like a logical development.
Potential Spoiler: Isabelle Huppert