Oscar predictions battle: Pete Hammond vs. Tom O’Neil on Best Actress

Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood) and I agree. The Oscar Best Actress race is a fierce diva smackdown between two strong rivals: Emma Stone (“La La Land”) and Natalie Portman (“Jackie”). The experts polled by Gold Derby are divided: 19 predict Stone will prevail, 7 say Portman. Stone gets 2-to-1 odds.

In our new prediction slugfest, Pete and I analyze most lead contenders for that category, but we focus chiefly on Stone and Portman. Watch the video above or listen to audio podcast version below.

WATCH: Oscar predictions battle — Pete Hammond vs. Tom O’Neil on Best Picture

Pete cites some of the strong reasons voters may opt for Stone: “She was nominated for ‘Birdman.’ She’s so well liked. She sings. She dances. She plays an aspiring actor just trying to get a break in Hollywood, which voters really identify with. She’s heart-breaking in the movie.”

But Pete and I agree that Stone has a drawback. Her role lacks depth or gravitas. Also, she’s just one delightful part of a superb film. She doesn’t have to carry her whole movie like Portman must do in “Jackie.”

“’Jackie’ is a one-woman show,” Pete notes. And we agree that it’s a bravura one. “Playing Jackie Kennedy, she’s extraordinary,” Pete adds. “She really captured the cadence of Jackie’s voice. It goes far beyond just an imitation.”

If you don’t want to watch the video, you can listen to this audio podcast version below. Check out Pete and my fierce discussion of the Best Picture race here.

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