Oscar Best Actress race: Is Renee Zellweger (‘Judy’) a shoo-in to win?

Unlike Glenn Close, who was denied an Academy Award (darn that Olivia Colman!) on her seventh try when she was nominated for 2018’s “The Wife,”  Renee Zellweger already has a gold trinket to cuddle for her spunky supporting acting turn as a no-nonsense mountain woman in 2003’s “Cold Mountain.”

She was previously nominated for her upgraded take on a single working girl in 2001’s “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and she was lauded for her singing and dancing turn as murderous jazz-age chorine Roxie Hart in 2002’s “Chicago.” But something happened to Zellweger once she earned Hollywood’s top honor. The girl who had Tom Cruise at hello in 1996’s “Jerry Maguire” went into a bit of a slump following the less-said-the-better second Bridget Jones film in 2004 and in the stereotypical role as a supportive wife in the 2005 boxing biopic, “Cinderella Man.”

SEE Renee Zellweger’s 15 greatest films ranked worst to best

Eventually, she took a six-year hiatus from acting before earning her first glowing reviews in ages with  2016’s “Bridget Jones’ Baby.”  But that comedy sequel can’t compete with the response she has gotten for “Judy,” in which the actress brings alive a pill-popping middle-aged Judy Garland while she engages in her last hurrah – a weeks-long engagement at a British nightclub in 1969, months before she would die from an accidental overdose at age 47.

Suddenly, Zellweger seems like the surest bet to win among the front-runners chosen by the 28 Gold Derby Experts’ current predictions in all 15 categories. The 24 Oscarologists who have picked her to win: Matthew Jacobs (HuffPo),  Christopher Rosen (TVGuide.com), Tim Gray (Variety), Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior), Brian Truitt (USA Today), Tariq Khan  (Fox TV), Claudia Puig  (KPCC),  Jen Chaney (Vulture), Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere), Perri Nemiroff (Collider), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Wilson Morales (BlackFilm), Jazz Tangcay and Sasha Stone (Awards Daily), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Scott Mantz (Collider), Keith Simanton (IMDB), Erik Davis (Fandango), Nikki Novak (Fandango) and Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neill, Jack Mathews, Thelma Adams, Susan King and myself.

SEE Judy Garland’s 20 greatest films ranked worst to best

Meanwhile, Joyce Eng (Gold Derby) and Anne Thompson (Indiewire) are backing Scarlett Johansson, who has never been nominated for an Oscar let alone won, for “Marriage Story.” Michael Musto (NewNowNext) is sweet on Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”) sight unseen since the eighth big screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel will be released in December. She has been nominated three previous times, supporting for 2007’s “Atonement” and as a lead for 2015’s “Brooklyn” and 2017’s “Lady Bird.” And Eric Deggans (NPR) is choosing Beanie Feldstein of “Booksmart” to take it all.

Possibly shaking up the Best Actress line-up is “Bombshell’s” Charlize Theron as former Fox TV news anchor Megyn Kelly, sporting a remarkable physical transformation as one of several women who accused the cable channel’s founder and CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harrassment. A screening on October 13  in Los Angeles had those in attendance raving about her performance. She is currently sitting at No. 6 in the combined odds, but expect her to rise shortly for the film directed by Jay Roach (TV’s “Recount” and “Game Change”) that opens on December 20.

Theron previously won for transforming her gorgeous looks to play a real-life snarling serial killer in the 2003’s “Monster.” But since then, she hasn’t been wanting for juicy roles the way that Zellweger has — and the magic act that Ms. Renee has to pull off to make us believe we are watching a real-life showbiz legend while performing her signature songs on stage is quite something. Plus, if our list of leading ladies contenders  vetted by studios and publicists is to be believed, there are only 26 candidates in the running — compared to 44 supporting actresses, 37 leading men and a whopping 62 male supporting players up for consideration.

Here is what some out Experts have to say about Zellweger”s uncanny re-creation.

Douglas:  “Lead actress is all about Renee. I’m not remotely a fan of her or even Judy Garland post-Wizard and her performance is indelible.”

Tangcay: “I can say Renee Zellweger raised the best actress bar with Judy.”

Musto: “Renee is terrific and she and the movie don’t indulge in character assassination; in fact they pretty much martyr Judy. But the old queen Judy lovers like myself remember that Judy never won an Oscar except for a special juvenile one, so we can’t give one to someone playing Judy LOL. The main drawback is that Renee’s singing vocals are weak. If she had used  the authentic vocals a la Jamie Foxx, Marion Cotillard and Rami Malek, she would have had a better chance for an Oscar, which would have also been a belated Oscar for Judy.

Below is an update on the Experts’ Oscar prediction odds as of October 14. Make your predictions, which will be factored into Gold Derby’s combined, official racetrack odds. All predictions are updated automatically once per hour.

1. “The Irishman” – 7/1
2. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – 15/2
3. “Marriage Story” – 17/2
4. “Jojo Rabbit” – 11/1
5. “Parasite” – 13/1
6. “Little Women – 15/1
7. “1917” – 16/1
8. “Ford v Ferrari” – 16/1
9. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – 20/1
10. “The Farewell” – 20/1

Changes since last week: “Little Women” and “1917” each rose one spot while “Ford v Ferrari” put on the brakes and dipped to No. 8.

1. Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman” – 39/10
2. Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in America” – 4/1
3. Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story” – 6/1
4. Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite” – 7/1
5. Greta Gerwig, “Little Women” – 14/1

1. Renee Zellweger, “Judy” – 17/5
2. Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story” – 4/1
3. Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women” – 11/2
4. Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet” – 7/1
5. Awkwafina, “The Farewell” – 15/2

Change: Erivo switches spots with Awkwafina.

1. Adam Driver, “Marriage Story” – 4/1
2. Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” – 9/2
3. Robert De Niro, “The Irishman” – 13/2
4. Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – 7/1
5. Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory” – 15/2

Change: De Niro shoves DiCaprio down a rung.

1. Laura Dern, “Marriage Story” – 19/5
2. Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers” – 11/2
2. Annette Bening, “The Report” – 6/1
3. Shuzhen Zhou, “The Farewell” – 8/1
5. Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – 11/1

1. Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – 71/20
2. Al Pacino, “The Irishman” – 5/1
3. Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – 9/2
4. Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes” – 15/2
5. Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse” – 13/1

Change: Pacino hops over Hanks to No. 2.

1. “The Irishman” – 37/10
2. “Jojo Rabbit” – 9/2
3. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – 5/1
4. “Little Women” – 6/1
5. “The Two Popes”- 9/1

Change: “Joker” sinks down to sixth place while the pontiffs rise.

1. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – 37/10
2. “Marriage Story” – 39/10
3. “Parasite” – 9/2
4. “The Farewell” – 13/2
5. “Pain and Glory” – 22/1

See odds in more top Oscar categories.

PREDICT the Oscars nominations; change them until January 13

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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