The Best Actress Oscar race appeared to be a two-person battle between eternal bridesmaid Glenn Close (“The Wife”) and Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”), the It girl from the It movie of the season thus far. But just like Emma Stone‘s arrival in “The Favourite,” her co-star Olivia Colman has crashed the party, opting to campaign in lead instead of supporting, and now we have a potentially very interesting three-person race. This isn’t good news for any Best Actress contender — Colman’s already shot up to third in our odds behind Gaga and Close — but should Close or Gaga be more worried about Colman’s presence? Let’s take a closer look.
Close had been the season-long frontrunner until two weeks ago, when Gaga shifted to the No. 1 spot in our predictions. A six-time nominee, she has the overdue narrative, otherwise a seventh loss would give her solo ownership of being Oscars’ biggest acting loser among women. Her Oscar path already got more complicated after “A Star Is Born,” armed with rapturous reviews and big box-office numbers (not to mention iTunes and Billboard numbers), entered in drama at the Golden Globes. Everyone had long presumed that Close would win the Best Film Drama Actress Globe and Gaga was a shoo-in for the corresponding Globe on the comedy/musical side. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association could still say “nay” and shuffle “A Star Is Born” to comedy/musical, but if it stays in drama, Gaga has a very good chance of beating Close. Gaga’s absence in Best Film Comedy/Musical Actress opens the door for Colman, so delightfully demented in “The Favourite” as Queen Anne, to win in a walk, which means Close could leave the Globes empty-handed.
Had Colman gone supporting, Close likely could’ve beaten Gaga at BAFTA with her quieter, internal performance. But now, BAFTA voters are not going to forsake one of their own playing a British monarch. It’s like how “The King’s Speech” (2010) won everything in sight at the BAFTAs, including supporting trophies for Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.
In terms of critics awards, Colman, who’s already won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, is going to dominate and deny Close a whole bunch of awards she may have won without Colman in the way. The Critics’ Choice Award will probably go to one of the two Globe winners, as voting once again takes place after the Golden Globes. But as Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) and Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”) reminded us last year, critical favorites and industry favorites don’t always align.
Close still has a shot at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which is kinder to veteran stars. But that means she could only have the SAG under her belt out of the four major precursors (Globe, SAG, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice). Only two people have won the Oscar with just the SAG since the BAFTAs became a precursor 18 years ago: Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball,” 2001) and Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby,” 2004).
First, the good news for Gaga: Her road to Oscar never needed to take a detour down the critics awards path. She has critical support, sure, and will probably win a couple awards here and there, but it’s nothing compared to the love for Colman and Close. Her track is the televised precursors — she’s the Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) to Colman/Close’s Metcalf — so Colman potentially sweeping critics prizes shouldn’t be too much of a concern. And Gaga could be right up the Ally, er, alley of the increasingly populist SAG-AFTRA voters.
What Gaga should be worried about is going up against two “serious” actresses. Despite her revelatory performance in “A Star Is Born,” there will still be snobs who just see her as a singer acting, one who does so in a film that caters to her strengths as a musician. Yes, Cher won Best Actress for “Moonstruck” (1987), beating Close (“Fatal Attraction”) in the process, but she was on her second nomination and had built up a respectable film resume by that point. You can cite Jennifer Hudson‘s Best Supporting Actress win for “Dreamgirls” (2006), but she had far less of a profile than Gaga — she was just the shocking elimination on the third season of “American Idol” — and hadn’t even released her first album yet. Close and Colman have more respect and gravitas as thespians, and Gaga could beat one of them, but can she overcome two?
Gaga could also inadvertently revert this back to a two-person race, thanks to her lock status in Best Original Song for “Shallow.” Voters might think they can take care of Gaga there, allowing them to choose between Colman and Close for Best Actress. Regardless of which genre “A Star Is Born” ends up in at the Globes, all three ladies could go home with Globes if the HFPA just awards Gaga for penning “Shallow.”
It goes without saying that the “song consolation prize” could’ve still happened with Colman in supporting, but a third contender in the mix forces you to look for more reasons to vote or not vote for someone. It’s just how we justify things to make it easier, and rewarding Gaga in Best Original Song to effectively remove her from Best Actress consideration would definitely make things easier.
Of course, Colman may very well go all the way, so this is bad news for both of them.
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 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.