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Our 2023 Oscars Predictions: Best Actress

So now we get into the lead categories, which are really as wide open as Best Supporting Actress, in that it’s no sure thing that any one performer will win this trophy. Seriously, think about the last time there was something close to an upset or surprise in this category. Maybe 2019? When The Favourite‘s Olivia Colman beat The Wife’s Glenn Close? And before that? Seriously, go back over the last 20 years, or the last 30, and pick out another time when there was a real surprise about the winner. Each and every time, there was a clear cut frontrunner, and that woman won the award.

This year, however, there might be a favorite, but she is hardly a sure thing. We’ll get into all that, but before we do, let’s take a look at the nominees. They are Cate Blanchett for Tár, Ana de Armas for Blonde, Andrea Riseborough for To Leslie, Michelle Williams for The Fabelmans, and Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All at Once.

I want to make it clear, right up front, that I firmly believe that Viola Davis, for The Woman King, and Danielle Deadwyler, for Till, absolutely and positively deserve to be on this list. Who would I replace? That’s easy: Williams and Riseborough. Williams was perfectly fine in The Fabelmans, but hers was much more of a supporting role than a leading one. I also think that, as good as she always is — and she is always good — she just doesn’t compare to the power that Davis and Deadwyler brought to their respective roles this year.

As to Riseborough, there is a lot of controversy about her nomination, but I think that’s misplaced. She got a lot of word of mouth behind her movie, got a lot of Academy members to watch it, and as they did, they saw a terrific performance and voted for it. Good for her. I take nothing away from her or her work in the movie, which really is dynamite.

But. Part of the problem with the Academy is that people put off watching movies that they think will be too much work — like Till, for instance, which is a very good movie, if not exactly a day at the beach to sit through, but of course that’s the whole point — and maybe even don’t watch them at all. That’s sort of an issue, especially when important work — like Till, for instance — goes unnoticed.

Here’s the thing about what Riseborough does in To Leslie: it’s excellent, powerful work. It is. She’s terrific, just as, like Williams, she is always excellent. But this was the kind of thing we’ve seen before, many times. A self destructive woman who is her own worst enemy who works hard to try to straighten out her life and find redemption? Yawn.

Between that, and the fact that her nomination created as much fuss as it did, means that both her and Williams will go home empty handed.

So, for that matter, will de Armas, who is remarkable as Marilyn Monroe, but her nomination is almost as surprising as Riseborough’s, because people hate this movie. I don’t. I actually quite liked it. But goodness gracious, have people railed against it. Her nomination is also her reward.

Which leaves us with the two people who were always going to be the final two: Blanchett and Yeoh. Blanchett has been the frontrunner all season, and has won most of the awards leading up to this, but even she doesn’t seem to think she’s going to win her third Oscar. At least, she’s behaving like she’s not, even though I actually think she is.

Now, Yeoh just won the SAG Award, which is an excellent predictor of the Oscar, and while I firmly believe that hers was the year’s best female lead performance, and I’ll dive into that directly, I mentioned yesterday that I don’t believe most of the Academy really gets the movie, and so will not vote for it or most of its talent (Ke Huy Quan, as previously noted, as the only sure exception).

Blanchett’s work in Tár is amazing, as always, but it’s also sort of standard fare. What’s really remarkable about it? What sets it apart from everything else? For me, almost nothing. But Yeoh? Not only does she bring numerous layers to a difficult role, she literally plays numerous versions of the character, while also spending a not insignificant amount of the movie using her martial arts skills. I defy Blanchett to pull that off.

Ultimately, I think there’s a real chance that Yeoh wins, but if I were a gambling man — and, truth be told, I am — I would put my money on Blanchett, because she’s the safe vote. I wouldn’t put a lot of money down, mind you, and I hope I’m wrong about this, but I don’t really think I am. Unfortunately.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Michelle Yeoh
WHO WILL WIN: Cate Blanchett

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