Jennifer Lopez (‘Hustlers’) is a growing Oscar threat, but can she win it?

Ever since “Hustlers” — a fact-based tale of larcenous strippers who cheat their wealthy Wall Street male customers by drugging their drinks before maxing out their credit card — opened on September 13 to glowing reviews and big box-office muscle, Jennifer Lopez has shown growing strength as a top Oscar contender.

Right after the opening weekend, her performance as the ring leader of a crew of exotic dancers emerged in the fifth spot among supporting-actress rivals with 23/2 odds in Gold Derby predictions. By the next week, she jumped to No. 4 with 17/2 odds. By mid-October, Lopez shimmied into third place, tied with Annette Bening (“The Report”) with 6/1 odds. By the first week of November, she had bumped Bening into the third slot and settled into second place, maintaining 6/1 odds.

As of November 20, the “Hustlers” star has an upward trajectory with 5/1 odds. But it might take more than a bit of bumping and grinding to unseat Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) from first place with 71/20 odds, especially since she has been having a re-appreciation moment for some time. It also doesn’t hurt that Dern also plays Marmee in Greta Gerwig‘s “Little Women” that opens next month. For now, Lopez’s backing has been rising in strength with nearly 17% of  almost 5,000 of Gold Derby users backing her.

Don’t be skeptical of the idea that a pop-music superstar can be nominated for, and win, Hollywood’s loftiest acting award. It’s happened several times dating back to Frank Sinatra prevailing as Best Supporting Actor in “From Here to Eternity” (1953). Since then, Cher triumphed for Best Actress in “Moonstruck” (1987) and, just last year, Lady Gaga was nominated in the same category for “A Star Is Born.” (She lost, but claimed Best Song for “Shallow” in consolation instead.)

If Lopez hustles her way into the next derby, she’ll likely break through first at the Globes Globes. Gaga won an acting Globe for “American Horror Story: Hotel” (1998). Currently, Lopez — who was nominated for a Globe over two decades ago for her 1997’s “Selena,” a biopic about the Mexican-American singing superstar whose life tragically ended too soon — ranks in second place (37/10 odds) in our Globe predictions.

Cher won first at the Globes — that was the start of her path to Oscar victory — but not all pop queens end up on the academy’s acting throne. Just ask poor Madonna, who vanished from the derby track soon after she won Best Comedy/Musical Actress for “Evita” at the 1997 Globes.

As for Lopez, now 50, her return has been gestating for over two decades after her film career initially got off to a good start when she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award as a supporting actress in 1995’s “The Family.”  After she starred in “Selena,” she became the first Latina actress to earn more than $1 million for a film.

This triple-threat who sings, dances as well as acts also received high praise for her turn in the 1998 sexy crime comedy “Out of Sight.” But she then had a string of flops and landed the ultimate turkey with 2003’s “Gigli,” opposite her one-time fiance Ben Affleck.  Lately, she has been more associated with reality-show judging, including “American Idol” before it moved to ABC as well as her own talent competition show “World of Dance” on NBC.

But it looks as if Lopez, who also produced “Hustlers,” might be re-energizing her film career already — especially considering that the R-rated film grossed $150 million worldwide. And an Oscar nomination — if not a win — would do wonders. Right now, she has a romantic comedy in the works, “Marry Me,” co-starring Owen Wilson and Sarah Silverman. The good news is that the director is Kat Coiro, who directed two episodes of Netflix’s smart female-led murder mystery series “Dead to Me.”

One of the coolest things about “Hustlers”? It is a rare occasion when female characters — in this case, strippers — are the ones pulling a con job on men in a potential Oscar contender. Usually, a male is much more likely to try to pull the wool over a woman’s eyes.

Sure, Faye Dunaway earned a Best Actress nomination her bank-robbing moll in 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” Anjelica Huston competed as a lead and Annette Bening vied in the supporting category for their roles as scammers in 1991’s “The Grifters” and Charlize Theron was unrecognizable as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s “Monster.” But ladies tend to be more preyed upon than predatory on the big screen, especially during awards season. If Lopez’s Ramona Vega proves to be her ticket to reviving her movie hopes, any leading men out there better watch out.

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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