Third times the charm with the new and improved Six Spot series!
We’ve turned our attention to one of my favorite categories. That’s right, it’s Best Actress week! The winner of this week’s Twitter poll was the 2016 Best Actress race. While Emma Stone walked away with the win, there was plenty of chatter around other nominees in the group. There were even more chatters around the actresses who didn’t make the cut. This makes this a perfect year to examine for Six Spot.
The Nominees Were:
- Isabelle Huppert – “Elle”
- Ruth Negga – “Loving”
- Natalie Portman – “Jackie”
- Emma Stone – “La La Land” – WINNER
- Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Emma Stone had many things going for her that made her the Best Actress frontrunner. She was the star of the (presumed) frontrunner for Best Picture (“La La Land”). Her precursor track record was very strong, having won Golden Globes, BAFTA and SAG Awards. Many championed Natalie Portman for “Jackie.” However, the lack of major precursor love, coupled with Portman’s 2010 Best Actress win, hurt her. In fact, Isabelle Huppert may have been Stone’s greatest competitor, having also won the Golden Globe. Meryl Streep snuck into the competition for one of her weaker performances, “Florence Foster Jenkins,” in part because of a galvanizing Cecil B. DeMille acceptance speech. Meanwhile, Ruth Negga was a newcomer who ran a strong, steady campaign as an underdog for “Loving” and snuck in at the last minute. With so much shakeup in the category, who was left out?
The Six Spot Contenders Are:
- Amy Adams – “Arrival” (Golden Globes, SAG, BAFTA, Critics Choice, National Board of Review Win)
- Annette Bening– “20th Century Women” (Golden Globes, Critics Choice, Indie Spirits)
- Emily Blunt– “The Girl on the Train” (SAG, BAFTA)
- Jessica Chastain– “Miss Sloane” (Golden Globes)
- Lily Collins– “Rules Don’t Apply” (Golden Globes)
- Sasha Lane – “American Honey” (Indie Spirits)
- Hailee Steinfeld – “The Edge of Seventeen” (Golden Globes)
One Precursor Wonders
This was a crowded year for Best Actress contenders. The sheer amount of “one-precursor wonders” illustrates the depth of the field. These are the ladies who managed one major citation, but weren’t able to parlay that to being in a larger part of the conversation. The Indie Spirits always provide a boost to young upcomers in the indie space who need additional clout. Sasha Lane received this bump in 2016 for her work in “American Honey,” Andrea Arnold’s 3 hour epic of millennial ambition. Lane has already used this initial discovery success to land a major part in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” which won Cannes praise and was released this past year. This was a great nomination for career traction. However, it was never going to lead to Oscar.
The Golden Globes also always get a chance to thrust unlikely competitors into the spotlight for lead awards, since they nominate 5 drama and 5 musical/comedy performers. One drama nominee and two comedy/musical nominees exited the season with only Golden Globes citations, among major awards. Jessica Chastain was nominated for the little seen lobbyist drama “Miss Sloane,” from John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”). She may have had more of a shot at a surprise nomination if anyone saw the film.
Meanwhile, Hailee Steinfeld (“The Edge of Seventeen”) and Lily Collins (“Rules Don’t Apply”) both received nominations on the comedy/musical front. Steinfeld clearly stands out as the more likely of the two to have an Oscar shot. She was a former nominee who starred in a well reviewed sleeper. Still, it was going to take more than the film’s modest box office for her to make a dent. Meanwhile, “Rules Don’t Apply” was Warren Beatty’s passion project that crashed and burned critically and commercially. We all know how Warren Beatty ended up this Oscar season as well.
Speaking of Warren Beatty, does Hollywood adore anyone more than Annette Bening? Bening won her fair share of ciritcal accolades for her work in Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women” as matriarch Dorothea Fields. Her performance conjures up a full realized picture of a middle aged woman in late-70s Santa Barbara struggling to impart feminist values on her son. In a career as large and revered as Bening’s, “20th Century Women” ranks among her best, and many critics cited this. She won nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globes and Critics Choice. This plus her fame could have nudged her in to a competitive race. However, the film was released in the last days of 2016 and never got the proper campaigning it deserved. It received an Original Screenplay nomination. However, with a proper late summer/fall release, Bening would have had an easier time making the cut.
Two very different performances dominated the field leading up to nominations. The more offbeat one was Emily Blunt in “Girl on the Train.” The film received toxic reviews and middling box office, which caused many to not predict it. However, the one two punch of SAG and BAFTA showed strong overlap with two Oscar voting groups. Despite the quality of the film, Blunt gives the film her all. Her performance as a sleuthing alcoholic leaves no piece of scenery left unchewed. However, it seems that if Oscar was going to nominate someone from a movie that would receive no other nominations, they would go with Ruth Negga for “Loving.”
The other performance that was snubbed was the most shocking omission of this year’s Oscars. Amy Adams’ performance for “Arrival” seemed like a sure thing. First, the film was a big Oscar player, going on to eight nominations including Best Picture. Second, Adams received all the major precursors – SAG, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Critics Choice. Third, there was genuine passion for the film, with some even thinking she could be a dark horse upset for the win. Much like Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” people may have just gone complacent when voting for Adams. She currently has five nominations with no win. Perhaps voters were not ready to nominate her until there was a strong narrative to finally give her the win.