Glenn Close is once again on the trail to win her first Oscar after seven previous losses. This time she’s competing in Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Mamaw in “Hillbilly Elegy.” While critics mostly savaged the film upon its release in November, many of them cited Close’s performances as one of the film’s redeeming qualities. Even the Critics Choice Awards nominated her in Best Supporting Actress despite the film’s 25 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.
The actress came, well, close to winning two years ago for “The Wife,” picking up precursor prizes at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards before stunningly losing the Oscar. She won’t replicate that path this year despite getting nominations at these places for “Hillbilly Elegy” as she lost the Golden Globe to former Oscar rival Jodie Foster. But the race is still young and there’s plenty of time for Close to take the lead on her path to an overdue Oscar.
Here are the five reasons why Close could still win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Hillbilly Elegy.”
1. The overdue narrative
Like it or not, the overdue narrative is one of the factors that voters consider when marking their ballots. This was in play during “The Wife’s” campaign, but it is even more pronounced after her famous loss two years ago. Close is already the living actor with the most nominations without a win, and a “Hillbilly” loss would just extend her record to eight. Even if “Hillbilly Elegy” isn’t the best performance of her 40-plus year career, would Oscar voters really be that cruel to deny her again?
2. It’s a showy performance
Oscar voters love flashy performances and Close certainly gives a bold one in “Hillbilly Elegy.” Aided by makeup and prosthetics, she transforms into Mamaw, sporting a Southern accent and a no-nonsense attitude. Actors like Christian Bale, Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jared Leto, Gary Oldman, Allison Janney, Rami Malek, Joaquin Phoenix and Renée Zellweger have all won Oscars in the past decade for physically transformative performances. Close not only has a radically different appearance in “Hillbilly Elegy” but a classic scene-stealing approach to her performance compared to her subtler work in “The Wife.”
3. She’s playing a real person
In addition to in-your-face performances, academy members tend to also be impressed by actors playing real people. Almost all of the aforementioned winning performances were actors imitating real-life figures. Meanwhile, all seven of Close’s Oscar-nominated roles were fictional characters. The end credits of “Hillbilly Elegy” show footage of the real Mamaw, grandmother to author J.D. Vance, and it’s almost uncanny.
4. She probably won’t be her movie’s only nomination
Unlike “The Wife,” “Hillbilly Elegy” is predicted to actually get Oscar nominations outside of Close. The film is heavily favored to earn a Best Makeup and Hairstyling bid, having already landed multiple bids at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards. Movies with multiple nominations typically do better with wins on Oscar night compared to films with just a sole mention. “Hillbilly Elegy” may even win the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar, and if Close were to also triumph, it would continue a trend of films to snag that acting + makeup combo, like “The Iron Lady” (2011), “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013) and “Darkest Hour” (2017).
5. There’s a lack of consensus in her category
Quite frankly, Best Supporting Actress is a chaotic category this year with no obvious frontrunner. Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) and Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”) have dominated the critics’ awards but both are far from locked to even get nominations due to bias against comedy and non-English language performances, respectively. Foster won the Golden Globe for “The Mauritanian” despite not even getting nominated at SAG. Olivia Colman (“The Father”) and Helena Zengel (“News of the World”) have shown up at numerous precursors but have yet to win anything. If Oscar voters are lost on what to do, they may just find comfort in rewarding a legend on her eighth nomination, even if it means her big moment in the sun happening over a Zoom call.
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