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The Oscar Race for Best Actress is the One to Watch

By Rachelle  /  15 Apr 2021 (Thursday)

Awards season is the best time to recognise the best of the best of films released in the past year. Sometimes the race is so tight, we’ll never know who’s going to win. There are also times when the season seems so set in stone but those always feel less exciting.

Winning one award might not guarantee the nominees a sure lock for another but they do stand to have a higher chance as the season rolls on. Case in point: last year’s ‘Four Horsemen’ – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress – were Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern respectively. While some critics may have been skeptical of their chances (considering their competition!), they still rose victorious in the end, nabbing every major award they were nominated for.

The same comfortable pattern can’t be said for this year’s group of talents though. While it looks like a Best Actor Oscar will be posthumously awarded to Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Kaluuya’s Best Supporting Actor win is pretty much in the bag, the uncertainty for their female counterparts remain. 

The Golden Globes kicked off this year’s awards season and reignited conversation from film festivals that lauded the same films. As per their usual, the Best Actress awards are split in 2 categories – Drama and Musical or Comedy – which Andra Day and Rosamund Pike won respectively. This in itself is a game-changer considering how both women aren’t consistently nominated for other awards.

Day was nominated for a Critics Choice Award for her leading performance in The United States vs. Billie Holiday but not a SAG or BAFTA while Pike's performance in I Care A Lot was only recognised at the Globes. Other women who were nominated alongside Day and Pike were Viola Davis, Vanessa Kirby, Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan in the Drama category and Maria Bakalova, Kate Hudson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Anya Taylor-Joy in the Musical or Comedy category.
Carey Mulligan was this year’s Critics’ Choice for Best Actress for her performance in Promising Young Woman, while the 27th Screen Actors Guild Awards saw Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s Viola Davis walking away with the Actor for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role and just last week, the BAFTAs awarded Frances McDormand for her performance in Nomadland.

Of the 5 victorious women mentioned, only Rosamund Pike wasn’t nominated for the Best Actress Oscar this year. In her place is Vanessa Kirby, who delivered a critically-acclaimed performance in Pieces of a Woman but failed to nab any major awards for it thus far. At the rate the race has been going, it’s still anyone’s Oscar to bag and that’s why it’s so exciting. 

Once again, here are the 93rd Academy Award nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Viola Davis – Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

During a recording session in a Chicago studio in 1927, tensions rise between famed singer Ma Rainey, ambitious horn player Levee and Ma Rainey's white manager, both of whom are determined to control the fiery "Mother of the Blues" to their own advantage.

Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday

In the 1940s, the U.S. government targeted beloved jazz icon Billie Holiday as part of their war on drugs, to prevent her from performing her heart-wrenching ballad "Strange Fruit," a blatant cry against lynching.

Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman

After a young mother's home birth ends in unfathomable tragedy, she begins a year-long odyssey of mourning and self-discovery that fractures relationships with her mother, partner and loved ones.

Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Following the economic collapse of the small town of Empire, Nevada, Fern packs her van to explore a life outside conventional society as a modern-day nomad in the American West.

Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Medical student Cassie was a promising young woman until a mysterious event derailed her future. Now, nothing in her life is what it seems; she is smart, cunning and lives a double life at night while seeking to right the wrongs of the past.

The 93rd Academy Awards will be held on April 25, 2021.

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