Oscar Experts Typing: Breaking down the Best Actress race that will break the internet

Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we look at the category that will have Stan Twitter abuzz this season: Best Actress.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! For the first time this year, it feels like fall is officially in the air: the temperatures on the East Coast have dipped below horrible, the New York Film Festival continues apace with some festival darlings, and the Best Actress race is already on fire. Over at Vulture, Nate Jones highlighted something we’ve talked about a couple of times already: this year’s awards season is a boon for stans. This is particularly true in the Best Actress race where Lady Gaga, Kristen Stewart and Jessica Chastain — three actresses with, um, pretty vocal online fan bases — are all vying for a nomination, while “Outlander” favorite Caitriona Balfe sits waiting on her category placement. (For the record, I remain a supporter of putting Balfe in the supporting race, because I think that’s an easier path for her to win.) Those four alone would be enough to goose months of Oscar debate, and I haven’t even mentioned the category’s multiple previous winners — Frances McDormand, Olivia Colman, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicole Kidman — all of whom have major roles lined up in high-profile contenders. I won’t stop there: Oscar winner Penelope Cruz is back thanks to a new Pedro Almodovar joint, while Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson remains in the conversation for “Respect.” Emmy winner Jodie Comer is an early contender too for “The Last Duel,” while Tessa Thompson and newcomer Rachel Zegler are possibilities as well. It’s an embarrassment of riches and online favorites: pretty much any collection of five nominees from the list of women above will light social media ablaze with memes and discourse. At this early point, dare I suggest that 2022’s Best Actress race will even top this year’s wild ride. What do you think, Joyce? Could this be the best Best Actress lineup ever?

joyceeng: Um, I don’t know if it will be the best, but it will definitely be the stanniest and the loudest. If you were sick of the “Promising Young Woman” hive by the end of April, then, as my friend Tooch would say, gird your loins. I currently have KStew, Chastain, Colman, McDormand and Cruz, which feels right but also wrong. The overall odds have Gaga and JHud in lieu of Colman and Cruz. I feel like it’ll be tough for JHud to hang on with so many big players waiting in the wings (who, to be fair, could flop hard), including Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta herself. This week we got a new “House of Gucci” poster, and while the overall discourse became about how the names of the actors didn’t line up with their faces (I guess no one has heard of billing contracts), it still kept the standom hyped and the film visible. What’s your take? Will Gaga return to the Best Actress race and possibly stage an “A Star Is Born” reunion with your favorite loser Bradley Cooper?

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Christopher Rosen: At the risk of falling on the wrong side of the “A Star Is Born” hive, I don’t even have Lady Gaga getting nominated at this point. Here’s why, even if it could be worrying for worry’s sake: I’m not sure even after all these performances that the academy thinks of Lady Gaga as an actress. Her nomination for “A Star Is Born” was a slam dunk: she’s a singer playing a singer, and so her performance felt like a natural extension of her celebrity. In “House of Gucci,” she’s playing someone else entirely. I have no doubt she can do it — she’s a Golden Globe winner after all for “American Horror Story,” she can act! — but will voters be willing to give her a shot, especially with so many other modern legends lining up behind her? So at the moment, I’ve got Chastain in pole position followed closely by Colman. Chastain has the narrative: a transformational performance — she’s playing a real-life person! With makeup! — and the sense that she should have an Oscar by now, 10 years after her breakout nomination. It feels like she should win. But the last time someone felt like they should win, they lost to Colman. “The Lost Daughter” played at the New York Film Festival this week and renewed the conversation around Colman’s work in the film. It remains one of my favorites of the year so far, and it might be Colman’s best. She just won, of course, but then again … so did Frances McDormand.

joyceeng: Oh, man, so many narratives and connections at play here. First of all, I feel similarly about Golden Globe champ Lady Gaga of “American Horror Story: Hotel.” (It’s really a shame the Globes self-immolated because she could’ve had a reunion with Leo. Also, she won that Globe over Kirsten Dunst’s legendary “Fargo” turn and Kiki is now finally in the Oscar running for “The Power of the Dog.”) “Gucci” also feels like fun camp for Little Monsters and Film Twitter to eat up — not dunking on this at all, I am looking forward to it — and regardless of how great Gaga’s performance might be, I can’t help but feel like certain folks might not be here for all of it. Plus, like you’ve pointed out, Jessica is right there with another transformative biopic performance that people have really taken to even if “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” has underwhelmed. She could face off against the person who beat her the last time she was nominated, JLaw. You’d be an idiot to completely dismiss Colman — especially since she’s the Queen of Upsets — who, if you recall, was presented her Oscar by McDormand (and Sam Rockwell). And as we’ve mentioned numerous times in the past 10 days, she could win an award over someone playing Princess Diana again. I know you’re on the Chastain Train (Chastrain?), but what are you thoughts on Stewart winning for a film about the twilight of Di and Charles’ marriage?

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Christopher Rosen: Leave it to KStew to come in here as we’re wrapping up and eclipse the remainder of the conversation. I fully support her performance in “Spencer” and could easily see a path for her to win: it’s the best work of her career and comes in the wake of countless other strong performances in indie films. Stewart is a true model for Hollywood’s franchise stars: she used her clout from “Twilight” to put her brand behind a bunch of auteur-driven arthouse features, many of which — I’d have to guess — wouldn’t have even gotten funding had she not been involved. But like we’ve discussed, “Spencer” is going to be polarizing — pause here for me to repeat the story about the lady behind me at Telluride loudly expressing her dismay as the credits rolled. Stewart is already polarizing to some extent herself. It’s a challenging film and her performance is never easy. If she won, it would be awesome. But I’m not convinced the academy at large has an attention span to push her over the top. We’re obviously going to talk about this a lot over the next few months, but any last words for now before we head off?

joyceeng: Remember when John Lithgow cruised to an Emmy in 2017 for playing Winston Churchill on “The Crown” and some people were unsure if the Oscars would award someone else for playing Churchill right after the Emmys did? And the answer turned out to be yes. Yes, they would; Gary Oldman swept everything. There was that brief period last month after “Spencer” screened when we were like, “What if someone wins an Emmy for playing a real-life British figure on ‘The Crown’ and someone else wins an Oscar for playing the same person in a few months again?” As we know, Emma Corrin lost the Emmy… so what if Diana is a reverse Churchill and Stewart also loses? Stewart checks a lot of boxes of a typical Best Actress winner and has the raves to back it up. If she wins, she’d also buck the recent atypical trend in the category of the award going to women over 40 the last four years, twice to McDormand (Stewart is 31, right in the sweet spot age of a usual Best Actress champ). I don’t really have a point here, just that this has been an interesting (and welcome) development in the category. But I guess my final final thought is: Happy birthday to you and former Best Actress champ and YouTube star Brie Larson!

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