Only the best actor ever – Meryl Streep, twenty-first Oscar nomination (21st!) -- has zero chance to win in the 90th annual field of Best Actress nominees.
Streep’s role as the publisher and biggest shareholder of “The Washington Post” doesn’t heft the special qualities that will take home her fourth Oscar. That said, her excellence twinkles in the nuances. In “The Post” she depicts a woman discovering a new gear in her character during the Pentagon Papers crisis. We experience an estimable woman finding sound footing in a man’s world.
It’s almost a requirement that people see Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn” to appreciate how remarkable she is in “Lady Bird.” It’s more than the difference between a readily likable, attractive, young Irish woman in one film, and in the other, a plain-looking, plainly-endowed American teen trying too hard to be more than a plain person.
In “Brooklyn,” Ronan portrays a resident confidence, building on unfolding experience. In “Lady Bird,” her character pretends confidence, hoping, struggling to get to the real thing. An Oscar, however, won’t be given for regarding Ronan in these contrasting roles. “Lady Bird” is a wonderful turn for Ronan. She’ll do well appreciating a mere nomination this time (her third before age 24). A win likely won’t take too many years to happen.
Margot Robbie could have wrecked the balance of “I, Tonya” in many ways. It’s the riskiest of all the nominated acting roles. She incarnated Tonya Harding, a national champion and two-time Olympian who was never seen as the right kind of person for the figure skating world. That was before earned respect would be forever undermined by her connection to a brutal attack on a rival skater.
Robbie fires on all cylinders. She puts Harding’s suffered abuse onscreen, as well as her drive and her confrontational attitude. She looks the skater part. Most of all, Robbie delivers the effective comedic vision of “I, Tonya” without the more obvious character facets that co-star Allison Janney gets to lean on. It would be well-met fun if the Academy voted Margot Robbie Best Actress.
Frances McDormand has the edge to win her second Oscar (first was “Fargo”). Forget that Best Actress Oscars tend to go to women in their twenties and thirties. McDormand (60) is one of those venerable actresses, appreciated for the pith she captures.
In “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” her character troubles over life after her daughter was raped and murdered. She behaves badly in various degrees. She causes trouble in a fictional, angry way that shape shifts well into “Time’sUp” and “MeToo” sentiments.
It’s fair to label McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance “timely” to sidestep stamping it as a politically aroused vote.
Sally Hawkins is more than a sentimental favorite. Seizing a rare acting challenge, she does much to assure that “The Shape of Water” wins Best Picture and Best Director. She carries the film by saying so much without speaking a word.
This doesn’t feel like a gimmicky role, even with the strange nuance that she’s mute but not deaf. Anyway, Hawkins embodies a woman naïve in life experience, but with heightened senses and heightened readiness for something more. Hawkins does an Oscar-deserving dive into a new shape of water that liberates her character and her audience. Alas, by a quirk of timing, she won’t win this Oscar.