When it comes to predicting the Oscars, one of the major hurdles early in the season is figuring out in which categories some of the actors will be competing. Someone like Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained is more of a co-lead performance, but it’s on the studio to decide where to campaign for the actor, and on the Academy to either accept or re-categorize (studios campaign for a specific category, but Oscar voters write in which category they’re voting on their own). In the case of Waltz and Django, he was submitted for Best Supporting Actor and walked away with the win, thanks in no small part to his extensive screentime compared to his fellow nominees.
This year’s race already had a few curiosities of its own, including Olivia Colman’s critically acclaimed turn as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’ period comedy The Favourite. The film drew wildly positive responses on the festival circuit, but everyone had plenty of praise not just for Colman but also Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. There was a serious question of where each actress would be competing, as Colman is technically the lead but cases could also be made for Stone and Weisz to go lead, or for Colman to go supporting. And given how immensely Colman’s performance was praised, the decision of which category in which to compete would have a major ripple effect for the entire Oscar race.
Well yesterday we finally learned that Fox Searchlight has decided to submit Colman in the Best Actress category, which means Stone and Weisz will be competing in Supporting. This means that Colman is now the early frontrunner to win the Best Actress trophy, which yes, means Lady Gaga’s got some serious competition.
Let’s first take a look at how this affects the Best Actress category. Up until now, there really hadn’t been a frontrunner just yet. Gaga is definitely in the mix and A Star Is Born is expected to score a ton of nominations and probably quite a few wins, but she wasn’t necessarily a sure thing. As for performances that have been seen already, Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer), Yalitza Aparicio (ROMA), Julia Roberts (Ben Is Back), Toni Collette (Hereditary) and Viola Davis (Widows) are all in the conversation, but this category is far from firmed up. Still to come are Saoirse Ronan in Mary Queen of Scots and Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex, with both of those films set to debut at AFI Fest. Then there’s also the possibility that Emily Blunt is in the mix for Mary Poppins Returns, but that likely won’t be screening for Academy voters until late November at the earliest.
Colman’s run for Best Actress does, however, open up Best Supporting Actress a bit. She would have been a surefire winner had she gone that route, but now her Favourite co-stars Stone and Weisz have shots, as do Claire Foy (First Man) and Elizabeth Debicki (Widows). But the biggest “winners” from Colman going lead are Amy Adams and Regina King. Adams’ turn as Lynn Cheney in Vice has yet to be seen but is already generating buzz, and King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk has been the breakout performance from Barry Jenkins’ drama. Best Supporting Actress is shaping up to be a heck of a category.
So there you have it, Colman is going Best Actress and the Oscar race will adjust accordingly. Stay tuned folks.