Sizing Up: Best Actress 2015

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maxresdefaultWe’re back now ladies and gentlemen for part four of this annual Sizing Up series of articles. This time around I’m going to be tackling the rather top-heavy Best Actress field. Unlike last year, for many this won’t be one of the more boring categories out of the majors or potentially the easiest to figure out, though the ultimate winner seems to only be between a few of the likely nominees. The victorious lady here won’t be too much of a concern for me right now, but I’m hoping to try and make sense of the category and see which ladies can actually get all the way to the final five. A lot can change between now and the nominations announcement, but this will represent where I think things currently stand, and it’s certainly a rather fluid list right now. Suffice to say, it’ll be interesting to see how this matches up to the eventual slate of nominees, since so much is sort of guesswork with Best Actress year in and year out, though traditionally I do very well here, having last year correctly put all five nominees in my Pole Position section, including eventual winner Julianne Moore for Still Alice. Enough chatter though, let’s get on with it and move to this new list and start sizing things up in the Best Actress field!

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

These here are the leading ladies that I’d say are basically 100% out of the race, regardless of their work and the quality found therein. Some are excellent in films that have no chance of being included in the field, and others just didn’t live up to the expectations people had for them earlier on in the year. There are plenty of candidates, of course, but the most notable ones for me are Christina Hendricks (Lost River), Arielle Holmes (Heaven Knows What), Bérénice Marlohe (5 to 7), Maika Monroe (It Follows), and Sarah Snook (Predestination). There’s some fine work in that field for sure, but they’re done here in Best Actress, plain and simple. No use crying over spilt milk though, so we can quickly move on to more likely women in more promising categories.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This first serious (or at least slightly more serious) grouping consists of ten females who are not out of the race completely this year, but have a rather long and arduous road to take if they want to really be in the thick of it at all. That in turn makes their candidacies rather unlikely, but not absolutely impossible. They either have subject matter that could be problematic, as is the case every year in all categories, or just don’t seem to have the right traction yet for any true awards attention. By and large, the quality of their performance here isn’t being called into question, so that’s a plus at least. Some of them are slightly bigger contenders than others, but for me I’m pretty much inclined to bet against them all right now, with perhaps a tiny exclusion. The actresses that fit this bill are as follows:

minnie-in-bathtubDrew BarrymoreMiss You Already
Jessica Biel Bleeding Heart
Greta GerwigMistress America
Melissa McCarthySpy
Bel PowleyThe Diary of a Teenage Girl
Margot RobbieZ for Zachariah
Susan SarandonThe Meddler
Emma StoneIrrational Man
Alicia VikanderTestament of Youth
Naomi WattsWhile We’re Young

A very select few of these have better chances than others of breaking away from the pack and moving towards a more realistic shot at Best Actress, but I’m less than confident about them all and wouldn’t put any money on them. A long shot case could be made for Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl if you want to really stretch things, since she’s been cited in the early precursors. Her odds are astronomical, but I suppose anything can happen. By comparison to these other hopefuls, she’s at least above them in terms of likelihood of a nomination (though Alicia Vikander has a better shot in Supporting for her performance in The Danish Girl, provided it stays that way…more on that later). Some might want to make a case fro Melissa McCarthy in Spy, but I just don’t see it. They all are going to need lots and lots of help to make any sort of dent in the Best Actress race though, so you can almost totally dismiss them at this point.

The “Second Tier” Contenders

These actresses here in this particular group are more solidly in play for a nomination in 2015, but still have some moderate to serious question marks that I’d like answered about them before moving them up a notch. I’d usually say that there will be at least a few from this list that make it closer to the big day with hopes of hearing their name called, but most will no doubt fade away as well, except that this year I think they’re all pretty far behind, much like last year. There are ten of these particular performances that would like to be considered big time contenders, somewhat wishful thinking as that may be. I don’t see them as big time ones just yet this season, but like I said, they’re not amazingly far off, at least historically. The ones that I see in this light are:

1010meadowland01Juliette BinocheClouds of Sils Maria
Sandra BullockOur Brand is Crisis
Angelina Jolie PittBy the Sea
Julianne MooreFreeheld
Julia RobertsSecret in their Eyes
Kitana Kiki RodriguezTangerine
Amy SchumerTrainwreck
Sarah SilvermanI Smile Back
Charlize TheronMad Max: Fury Road
Olivia WildeMeadowland

Most years I like to state here that there’s a version of this race where some combination of these ten women could make up the ultimate Best Actress field (just look at some of the films here that once were considered major Best Picture threats, like By the Sea, Freeheld, and Our Brand is Crisis), but much like the last year or two, there’s still another dozen females to come with much better chances as always, so that kind of shoots that theory to pieces. Plus, there’s the top heaviness of this category, as previously mentioned. That puts these females in an odd position where they need to distinguish themselves in some way a lot more so than usual. A few might be able to, but most won’t. My best guess is that no one ends up coming close, but if you really want a few to pin some long shot hopes to, I’d look at Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road (though I don’t for one second believe the Academy will ultimately go for her) and Olivia Wilde for Meadowland. I’d love to think that Oscar voters will consider Amy Schumer for Trainwreck and Sarah Silverman for I Smile Back, but that’s probably not going to happen. Theron needs her film to have a better showing than expected, while more people just need to see Wilde’s movie, so it might all be for nothing here. The big contenders are still to come…

The “Pole Position” Contenders

Here we are. These are the dozen most likely contenders for Best Actress in my opinion, and frankly the only ones worth considering. Not surprisingly, my personal Oscar predictions consist of a grouping of some of these gals. They each have a lot going in their favor, and seem to be sitting quite pretty for a good deal of citations during the precursors. They’re also in some of the most mentioned films so far this year for the category, and I don’t exact that to change as the year comes to a close. Which 12 women are they, you might ask? Well, they are the following:

film1-1_8-20-15-4e8b87bd9b9b2f54Cate BlanchettCarol or Truth
Emily BluntSicario
Blythe DannerI’ll See You in My Dreams
Brie LarsonRoom
Jennifer LawrenceJoy
Helen MirrenWoman in Gold
Carey MulliganSuffragette
Charlotte Rampling45 Years
Saoirse RonanBrooklyn
Maggie SmithThe Lady in the Van
Meryl StreepRicki and the Flash
Lily TomlinGrandma

Right now, there’s three of four women that are close to locks for nomination, much like around this point last year. I have to believe that Cate Blanchett for Carol (not Truth, that one would be a longer shot), Brie Larson for Room, and Saorise Ronan for Brooklyn are basically locked in, with a slot essentially there for Jennifer Lawrence if she’s as good as expected in Joy. That more or less leaves only one spot for the remaining eight women, with contenders such as Emily Blunt for Sicario, Blythe Danner for I’ll See You in My Dreams, Helen Mirren for Woman in Gold, Maggie Smith for The Lady in the Van, and Meryl Streep for Ricki and the Flash at the bottom of that list (though I concede that Blunt, Danner, and Smith have upward mobility). As such, it could be between Carey Mulligan for Suffragette, Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years, and Lily Tomlin for Grandma in the battle for that fifth citation. Of those three, I think Tomlin is the one who slips in, but don’t sleep on Rampling either. The caveat there? If one or both of Rooney Mara (for Carol as well) or the aforementioned Vikander go Lead, that would make it likely that Vikander is the one who gets in, with perhaps Mara even pushing out one of the almost locked women for a place as well. These pole position players are likely the only people truly in line to compete for the five slots, like I’ve said, but honestly, who really knows for sure? We shall see, but that’s what I think it looks like here in the thick of November.

Most of the aforementioned actresses have little to no chance at being nominated (which I’m sure you can tell), but as I said, there’s about a dozen somewhat solid contenders right now, give or take a few (the realistic number is closer to eight or nine), though this year is certainly primed for a surprise or two. I’m sure that the list will be reduced soon enough through precursor awards and everything up to and including osmosis as I like to say year in and year out, though we could also see it increase as the aforementioned precursor season might just reveal some new and hopefully exciting contenders for our predicting pleasure. Stay tuned folks…

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Thoughts? How do you see Best Actress shaping up this year? Discuss in the comments!