Another year, another super competitive crunch for Best Actress nominations. Things were so tight this year it prompted Viola Davis to jump ship to the Supporting race, saw Amy Adams miss for a complex Best-Picture-headlining turn and Annette Bening get passed over for some of the best work of her career. And yet as tough as it's been to crack the Best Actress lineup these last few years, eventual winners have been easy to call.
The BAFTA and the SAG have been lining up an awful lot lately (four years in a row), and when they do it almost always presages an Oscar win. With both of those plus the Comedy/Musical Golden Globe in hand, Emma Stone looks locked and loaded to land an Oscar for her luminous performance in La La Land.
If a true challenger exists, my chip's on Critics Choice winner Natalie Portman as Jackie. Oscar loves a biopic role, even if it's not one in the traditional biopic vibe. Or maybe we shouldn't sleep on Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert and her perfectly tailored part in Elle. The two of them split most regional critics prizes and clearly have their cheering sections.
Meryl Streep felt like one of those on-the-bubble contenders going into nominations, especially considering the lighter tone of Florence Foster Jenkins, but that memorable speech at the Golden Globes may have been what clinched her nomination #20. Meanwhile, Ruth Negga carved out a durable presence on the publicity circuit and won enough favour for her lovely, understated performance in Loving, the film's only nomination.
Any of these four also-rans would be worthy winners in any year, but none of them are likely to stop Stone and the La La Land juggernaut.
Will win: Emma Stone, La La Land
Could win: Natalie Portman, Jackie
Should win: Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Should be nominated: Annette Bening, 20th Century Women and Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen