Six Spot: Best Actress in a Leading Role (2015)

12

Oscar Question

Welcome back to Six Spot!  Click the link if you want to read back issues of Six Spot, but if you’re new, the concept is easy: Who just missed an Oscar nomination?  Who was #6?  Who has the dubious position of being the Six Spot?

In the triumphant return, I wanted to continue the tradition of Six Spotting one of the acting races of the prior Oscar season.  I thought about Best Actor–but that seemed so obviously Johnny Depp that writing a whole article seemed futile.  Then I turned to Supporting Actress, but the idea of having to mention Helen Mirren in Trumbo brought tears to my eyes.  Then I said “why not Supporting Actor?–the most competitive Phase 1 of an acting race in recent memory?” But Supporting Actor would a) make me revisit Sylvester Stallone feels, b) frankly, be too hard, and c) I’d have to listen to everyone holler at me when I concluded a Six Spot OTHER than Idris Elba (*cough* it was sooooooooooooooooooooo Jacob Tremblay *cough*).

But Best Actress….now that’s interesting.

The Nominees Were:

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Contenders for the Six Spot:

  • Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold (SAG + buzz from Trumbo)
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back (SAG)
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl (Golden Globe + BAFTA in Lead)
  • Rooney Mara – Carol (Golden Globe + Indie Spirit Lead nod)
  • Melissa McCarthy – Spy (Golden Globe + actually best lead female performance of the year)
  • Maggie Smith – The Lady in the Van (Golden Globe + BAFTA)
  • Amy Schumer – Trainwreck (Golden Globe + breakthrough year)
  • Lily Tomlin – Grandma (Golden Globe)
  • Bel Powley – The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Indie Spirits + Gothams)
  • Kitana Kiki Rodriguez – Tangerine (Indie Spirits)

Okay.  So the precursor race was really weird for Best Actress in 2015.  Before we get into some of the odder candidates, let’s address the elephant in the room: Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara.  While I personally think one was lead and the other was supporting, I can see the argument that both are supporting and that both are lead, and given that Vikander was placed lead at BAFTA and the Golden Globes, while Mara was deemed lead at the Golden Globes, I wasn’t alone.  Given the buzz surrounding both, I seriously, seriously think one or both of them landed sixth or seventh, but were disqualified in lead due to receiving more votes in supporting (which would explain why Lawrence and/or Rampling found a way in, potentially landing as low as 7th in the initial balloting).  So I’ll concede, the TRUE Six Spot is probably either Vikander or Mara, but let’s move to the real Six Spot, i.e., the actress who would have been nominated if the AMPAS allowed six spots, and the actress who very likely finished 8th in voting.

So disqualifying Vikander and Mara leaves us with 6 ladies who received handsome precursor love.  Despite being amazing, I tend to think Melissa McCarthy, Lily Tomlin, and Amy Schumer‘s inclusion on this list is mostly due to the HFPA diving lead races up into Drama and Comedy/Musical–I doubt they were genuinely that competitive, espeically since this is the only major or minor place they were recognized in Best Actress for their performances in the season.  Then Indie Spirit nominees Powley and Rodriguez might have been players in a longer Phase 1, but could never crack the bigger studios with more recognizable actresses.  That leaves SAG nominees Helen Mirren and Sarah Silverman, and Globe and BAFTA nominee Maggie Smith.

Mark Rylance managed to get BFCA, SAG, Golden Globe nominations and WIN the BAFTA and the Oscar without any campaigning.  Therefore, it’s hard for me to penalize Dame Maggie Smith for doing the same.  But ultimately, I think her two major precursor recognitions are more flukes than anything.  Her Globe nod can be attributed to the Comedy/Musical category and her BAFTA nod can be attributed to home field advantage (I mean, we’re not really thinking Julie Walters was close for Supporting Actress in Brooklyn just because she got a BAFTA nod, right?).  And yet–she’s Maggie Smith.

But do I buy the eye-roll inducing Mirren narrative?  Her head-turning SAG nomination suddenly made her a contender, despite no one remembering Woman in Gold was a) released in 2015 or b) a movie.  And yet, if the rumors be true, TWC was trying their mightiest to help Dame Mirren land her 5th nomination–a nomination she’s been seeking and has nearly gotten thrice since her last nomination in 2009.  But at the end of the day, I’m so painfully iffy on this.  Look at Woman in Gold‘s IMDb award page–it’s the most barren I’ve ever seen an awards page in recent memory.

…Except that I Smile Back‘s IMDb awards page isn’t must more extensive.  Sarah Silverman is spectacular in the film, but would she have been taken seriously enough by Academy members, rather than SAG-AFTRA voters, to finish at least 7th?  I don’t know, but I tend to think not.

My issue with all three remaining contender is: Did They See the Movie, and if so, would they vote for this actress?  You have standard zombie votes going for both Mirren and Smith, but I imagine a youth contingent vying for Silverman.  Ultimately, like with Oscars most years, I think I’m erring with the lighthouse that is BAFTA.  Thus….

The Six Spot* for 2015 Best Actress was:

maggiesmith_ladyinthevan

Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

*actually Eight Spot, because Alicia Vikander or Rooney Mara were likely at least sixth and seventh in voting

Share your thoughts in the comments!