Brie Larson remains the strong frontrunner to win Best Actress at this year’s Oscars for her starring role in Lenny Abrahamson‘s indie hit “Room.” She enjoys leading odds of 9/5 to prevail for her riveting performance as a woman held captive with her five-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay). The role gives Larson an opportunity to showcase both the harrowing fear of being held prisoner and the humanity of raising a child under such traumatic circumstances.
Of our 24 experts who cover this beat year-round for major media outlets, only two are betting against her. Michael Musto (Out.com) and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) are backing the bid by Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn“). All seven of our website editors as well as 16 of the Top 24 Users (those who did the best predicting last year’s Oscar nominations) are in Larson’s corner too.
However, even frontrunners don’t always win. Below, we consider four factors that could stand in the way of Larson taking to the stage on Oscar night.
1. Competition Matters
Two of the most recent Best Actress winners — Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine,” 2013) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook,” 2012) — are strong contenders this year with “Carol” and “Joy” putting them in second and fourth place respectively. However, those wins that are still fresh in Oscar voters minds might work against them.
Other than the back-to-back victories by Luise Rainer (“The Great Ziegfeld,” 1936; “The Good Earth,” 1937) and Katharine Hepburn (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” 1967; “The Lion in Winter,” 1968), the other 10 women to take home Best Actress twice have had to wait at least three years after their first win to pick up the matching bookend. The most recent of those was Jodie Foster (“The Accused,” 1988; “SIlence of the Lambs,” 1991). And the last double winner was Hillary Swank who prevailed for “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004, five years after winning for “Boys Don’t Cry.”
To that end, current third-place contender Saoirse Ronan from “Brooklyn” and fifth place Charlotte Rampling from “45 Years” could emerge as her primary competition. If so, Larson may have a tougher fight on her hands.
Ronan, like Larson, is a younger actress and Oscar voters love to reward ingenues. Add to that the fact that she already contended for an Oscar, with a 2007 Supporting Actress bid for “Atonement”; she lost to Tilda Swinton (“Michael Clayton”).
Rampling is a respected veteran British actress, in the vein of Helen Mirren who won for “The Queen” in 2006. The academy may want to give her an overdue embrace to for her critically hailed turn.
2. Precursors Matter
Larson was named Best Actress by the National Board of Review. However, in the past five years only one NBR champ — Julianne Moore (“Still Alice,” 2014) — has gone on to claim the Oscar.
Rampling won over the Los Angeles film critics, who have previewed two of the past five Oscar winners: Cate Blanchett from (“Blue Jasmine,” 2013) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook,” 2012). And Ronan was feted by the New York film critics as were Blanchett and Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady,” 2011) prior to their Oscar wins.
However, Larson is the clear frontrunner at three upcoming precursor prizes that have much better track records when it comes to predicting Oscar winners.
She leads for Best Drama Actress at the Golden Globes with odds of 1/4. All five of the most recent Oscar winners for Best Actress have first won at the Globes. At the SAG Awards, she enjoys leading odds of 2/13. Four of the last five Oscar winners first prevailed here. And she has those same overwheming odds at the Critics’ Choice Awards where three of the past five Oscar winners first reigned supreme.
While Blanchett and Ronan are also nominated for these three bellwether awards. Lawrence and Rampling were snubbed by SAG.
3. Performance Matters
Sometimes just as important to Oscar voters as the performance in the film is the one delivered at a podium while accepting an award. Globe, Critics Choice and/or SAG wins will give Larson an opportunity to audition for the Oscars.
This is especially important for a relative newcomer like Larson who has not had such opportunities in the past. Last year’s eventual Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne parlayed his socko acceptance speeches at the Globes and SAG into frontrunner status.
4. The Movie Matters
When Oscar nominations come out, have a gander as to how well “Room” does overall. We are predicting it to reap Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay bids. If it doesn’t, that shows us that the academy isn’t as fond of Larson’s movie as we think. Conversely, if Abramson or Tremblay can break through in director and supporting actor respectively, that means a lot of love for the movie which will further boost Larson’s chances.
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“Room” photo credit: A24