As award season settles upon us, both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes have released their list of nominees, and while there are no guarantees that those nominated will also receive Academy Award nominations, history suggests that, more often than not, a consistent nomination for the first two translates into a nod for a chance to take home the gold on Oscar night.
While Oscar nominations won’t be announced until January 24th, the pool of contenders for Best Actress seems deeper than it has in recent years. Some of the early favorites are Michelle Williams, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and Tilda Swinton. Admittedly, none of these are set in stone, and personally, I would like nothing more than a bit of chaos at the awards, so maybe we could hope for a dark horse like tyro Elizabeth Olsen to get a nod for Martha Marcy May Marlene, or Adepero Oduye to sneak in for her performance in the limited-released Pariah. However, the initial five will probably fill out the category.
That said, history often also plays a role in who takes home the twelve-inch statuette. That’s not to say that merit doesn’t ever earn an award. It does. Sometimes. And, if it does this year, then Davis, who brought consistently believable emotion to The Help; Williams, who completely carried My Week With Marilyn; and Swinton, the mother of a seemingly nefarious boy in We Need to Talk About Kevin will be the front runners. All three have been nominated in the past, and Swinton took home a Supporting Actress Oscar for Michael Clayton, which may take her out of the running given that her victory came only a few years ago.
At the same time, one cannot discount Streep. Her performance as Margaret Thatcher is lauded as the highlight of a film that looks more like a farcical biopic than a serious narrative. If Streep wins and her performance is as good as people say, she will deserve it, but this is why she has a solid shot no matter what: she’s deserved it many times over. As the most nominated actress in history, and, by many accounts, the best living American actress, Streep has maintained a career of consistently solid performances that range from the ultra-dramatic (A Cry in the Dark, Doubt, Sophie’s Choice, or Deer Hunter) to the mordantly comical (The Devil Wears Prada or Julie and Julia). Despite her range and her talents, thrice in the last decade, she’s seen the Oscar go to someone else. Admittedly, in 2007, Helen Mirren won an Oscar that Streep rightly deserved for The Queen; however, Sandra Bullock received more votes for her performance in The Blind Side (2010), and Kate Winslet snagged a statue in 2009 for The Reader.