How the 2019 Best Actress Oscar race could mirror 1987: Is Lady Gaga this year’s Cher?

“I feel like Cher in that John Patrick Shanley film ‘Moonstruck’ right now,” proclaimed Lady Gaga upon accepting her Golden Globe for “American Horror Story: Hotel” in 2016. Little did she know how true that may be just three years later. Gaga has earned some of the best reviews of her career for playing Ally, a singer on the rise, in “A Star Is Born.” This attention has translated into early Oscar buzz for 2019, with some declaring her the frontrunner to win Best Actress even over much more seasoned actresses. One of those thespians is Glenn Close, who may see a bit of history repeating 31 years after losing for one of her most iconic roles.

The 1987 Best Actress race found another pop star-turned-actress startling critics with an irresistibly charming, stripped-down performance. Cher gained a huge amount of respect as an actress thanks to “Moonstruck,” a romantic comedy in which she plays a young widow falling in love with her fiance’s brother. The revelatory nature of her performance led to her winning a Golden Globe and eventually an Oscar. While it’s true that Cher had been acting in film for a few years before “Moonstruck” and even earned an Oscar nomination for 1983’s “Silkwood,” she was still in a position of having to prove herself to skeptical moviegoers, and “Moonstruck” was her perfect vehicle to do so. Close was among the actresses Cher beat, nominated for her chilling turn in “Fatal Attraction.” Now, in 2018, Close may be facing an eerily similar situation with “The Wife,” for which she is being considered a frontrunner in Best Actress alongside Gaga.

So will Gaga indeed feel like Cher in that John Patrick Shanley film “Moonstruck” on Oscar night? Academy voters do love, appropriately, the “star is born” narrative for young performers in Best Actress, as seen by recent wins like Emma Stone in “La La Land” (2016), Brie Larson in “Room” (2015), Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” (2007). The surprise factor in Gaga’s performance, with some critics being “downright shocked” at her subtle take on Ally, will inevitably help separate her from the competition. And much like Cher in 1987, Gaga has been all kinds of magazine covers, heavily publicizing “A Star Is Born” and how it fits into her ever-evolving career.

As for Close, discussion of her overdue status after six losses has been an ongoing narrative throughout the season. Close was nominated five times in the ’80s for: “The World According to Garp” (1982), “The Big Chill” (1983), “The Natural” (1984), “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988), and earned her sixth nomination decades later for “Albert Nobbs” (2011). With that sixth loss she officially became the most Oscar nominated living actor without a win. Finally rewarding an overdue actor is another notable trend at the Oscars, like Julianne Moore for “Still Alice” and Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant,” who both won on their fifth acting nominations, respectively.

Of course, there are also many other contenders who could come down the middle and defeat both Close and Gaga. Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and newcomer Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”) have all been discussed as possible winners themselves. But if Close vs. Gaga persists throughout the season all the way to Oscar night, that infamous ’87 race will be in the back of Oscarologists’ minds as they determine whether Gaga emulates Cher’s ascension or if Close finally prove that she won’t be ignored.

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Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.

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