According to the Experts’ predictions at Gold Derby, Emma Stone (“La La Land”) gets excellent odds (2/7) to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Twenty-two out of 25 Oscarologists pick her to prevail. However, three pundits say the winner will be Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”), who should really have better odds than she does: 13/2. Huppert could actually take this thing.
Upsets happen all of the time at the Oscars, of course. Consider Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) last year. Twice in recent years there have been jawdroppers in the Best Actress race: Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) over Viola Davis (“The Help”) in 2007 and Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) over Julie Christie (“Away from Her”) in 2011.
Cotillard’s victory is of special interest now because she beat the odds (and superstars like Cate Blanchett) with a French-speaking role in a little artsy indie not nominated for Best Picture. That’s just like Huppert.
Every now and then Oscar voters love to go off script like that. Just to show us how smart they are and to prove that all academy members are not shallow hypocrites who make “Batman 12” and “Hunger Games 27” in their day jobs and then seek redemption through the Oscars.
In the Best Actress race, they usually vote for the pretty ingenue just as she emerges as the hot new chick on the block – like Brie Larson (“Room”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). This year that would be Stone. She fits the profile perfectly. She’s a past nominee (“Birdman”) in the supporting category and now stars as the heart and soul of the film that’s about to sweep the Oscars. Best Pictures usually win an acting award – like Lupita Nyongo for “12 Years a Slave,” Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” and Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech.” (The past two Best Pictures were exceptions: “Spotlight” and “Birdman.”)
All of this puts Stone out front, but she is vulnerable to an upset because her role is so deliciously frothy as she waltzes through the starry heavens with Ryan Gosling. Her role isn’t pretentious; it doesn’t have brooding gravitas. Often Oscar voters want to see Julianne Moore battle dementia in “Still Alice” and Brie Larson outwit a rapist in “Room.”
That’s what Isabelle Huppert does — spoiler alert! – in “Elle,” you know. She defeats a rapist, all the while spouting French, looking fabulous, sipping red wine and not at all appearing to be a woman of 63. Academy member love to embrace mature actresses when they’re sexy like Moore, Blanchett and Sandra Bullock. In Huppert’s case, she’s also got huge snob appeal (often a top priority for voters). “She’s the Meryl Streep of France!” everybody gasps.
Officially, I’m picking Stone to win, but I am very, very leery of the Best Actress prediction of Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), who may be onto something. He’s picking Huppert. Let’s not forget that she recently pulled off an upset over Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) at the Golden Globes.