Oscar Experts Typing: Kristen Stewart made it, but can she actually win Best Actress?

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 take a stab at Best Actress post-nominations.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s Friday and we’ve had a few days to recover from the 2022 Oscar nominations — a list of nominees that, to be quite honest, generated the least amount of controversy in quite some time. From a Film Twitter-approved Best Picture lineup that recognized films like “Nightmare Alley” and “Drive My Car” ahead of “Being the Ricardos” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” to beloved critical favorite “The Power of the Dog” dominating the nominations with 12, the 2022 Oscars have already pleased the base. Even the misses weren’t catastrophic: You and I both remain apoplectic about the academy failing to nominate Tony Kushner in Best Adapted Screenplay, since I’d at least argue his “West Side Story” script should win that category (the write-in campaign starts here?), and ardent fans of both Lady Gaga and Caitriona Balfe are obviously smarting, but none of the snubs felt like a true injustice. (There are reasons all three of those nominations failed to materialize, as we discussed at length this week! But perhaps no nomination was as warmly received this week as Kristen Stewart‘s. People were so jazzed up about the “Spencer” star making the Best Actress cut that there are actual viral reaction videos. I have to say, it was a pleasant surprise — Stewart was the de facto frontrunner in the category for literal months and was crushed in the 11th hour by snubs at the SAG Awards and BAFTA Awards. It felt like all the regional critics’ prizes in the world couldn’t save her presumed Oscar nomination. I know we toyed with crossing her off and both eventually did: She wasn’t on my final list of Oscar predictions, even though I gamely tried to make the case to myself last week. In the end, I’m glad to have been proven wrong: Stewart is the kind of actor everyone should love, one who took her huge fame and has used it to make difficult and often inscrutable art movies, like “Spencer.” So now that she’s in, alongside Jessica Chastain, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman, what do you think, Joyce? Does she get the Hawkeye treatment in Phase Two and go from an also-ran to the people’s favorite? (What I mean is, can Stewart actually win this thing?)

joyceeng: “Hawkeye” is a Christmas show and “Spencer” is a Christmas movie… and that’s where the similarities end. We discussed multiple times last week how bad we felt about Stewart’s ostensibly bleak prospects after “Spencer’s” collapse the past few weeks — but also that she could make it due to No. 1 votes — so I am happy she did. However, I think she is in fifth here and the nomination will be the reward. It’s a huge dopamine boost for KStew and “Spencer” stans, especially with Gaga, the one hopeful who hit everything, AWOL, but I feel like much of the argument for a Stewart triumph rests on “Best Actress is bonkers! Anyone can win!” Yes, that’s true in theory — the category is crazy and there are no Best Picture representatives for the first time in the preferential era in a year when we returned to a hard 10 — but when you get down to the nuts and bolts, her competitors are comparatively stronger. Stewart is the only one of the five who is her film’s sole nomination and there have been two lone nominees who’ve won Best Actress this century: Charlize Theron, who was undeniable in a super baity and transformative part in “Monster,” and Julianne Moore, who was overdue when she won for “Still Alice” (in which Stewart played her daughter) in another weak Best Actress year. Both of them swept their seasons (“Monster” was ineligible at BAFTA), which Stewart obviously cannot do. Glenn Close was “The Wife’s” sole nomination and is the most overdue performer alive, but she couldn’t overcome Colman from 10-time and Best Picture nominee “The Favourite” (and Close didn’t sweep the precursors). There is no “Favourite” (no pun intended) in this year’s race — no one’s film has more than three nominations, but at least the others have more than one. We say this every week, but “Spencer” is very divisive and it got a grand total of zero (0) nominations from the guilds and BAFTA. If it were only the acting branch voting for the winner, Stewart would be better positioned, but since the entire 9,000-plus membership casts a vote… I’m not saying all Stewart needs is a miracle, but she’ll need a lot of help. Where do you stand? Have you already pre-ordered some celebratory KFC?

SEE Oscar Experts slugfest: Kristen Stewart in, Lady Gaga out! Analyzing the 2022 nominations

Christopher Rosen: As usual, everything you wrote here is accurate — but like my daughter, I’m nothing if not stubborn. So yes, I’ve boosted Stewart all the way up to No. 2 in my predictions, behind only Kidman. But while I think she could win and that there’s a compelling narrative around her from a campaign standpoint — basically, it’s the Ben Affleck and “Argo” playbook redux, a popular star seemingly shunned by the industry who wins largely because of goodwill — I’m starting to wonder if this could be the year Jessica Chastain trumps all. Let me pretzel logic this out: Kidman, Colman, and Cruz are all past Oscar winners, and I’m not entirely sure there’s a lot of juice around any of their very excellent performances this year. Stewart, like you mentioned, is a lone nominee in a polarizing film that the industry doesn’t seem to enjoy (watch it on Hulu now, though, if you haven’t seen “Spencer” already!). Then there’s Chastain. Her movie is fine — not polarizing when compared to “Spencer” or “Ricardos” and not highfalutin like “The Lost Daughter” and “Parallel Mothers” — and it’s already a likely Oscar winner thanks to its hair and makeup work. Of the nominees, even with two other biopic performances represented, Chastain can cop to having undergone the biggest transformation. And she’s probably the safest bet to win at least one major precursor, the Screen Actors Guild Award. This is going to be a super close race and I could see any of these actresses holding that Oscar statuette on March 27. But remember when I said I had Kidman first and Stewart second, well, what if I just pop Chastain at the top and call it a day?

joyceeng: Chastain can definitely win SAG and go on to Oscar glory. That performance is pure SAG bait, and while the academy can be more high-minded, in such a fractured, unpredictable race, she could eke it out (I would kill to see the vote totals for both phases this year). At the same time, she also reminds me of Andra Day in last year’s unruly Best Actress race. They both had stellar reviews for their performances as real people, and Day scored a surprise precursor win, but both might be let down by their completely serviceable films (Day was also a lone nominee). There is no “Nomadland” or even a “Promising Young Woman” this year, of course, so that helps Chastain. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” came out in September, so presumably most voters have seen it, but for those who haven’t, is it a high-priority screener for the non-acting and non-MUAH branches? Even though “Being the Ricardos” only received acting nominations, it earned PGA and WGA nominations, and it feels like it has the potential for more cross-branch viewing and support. For all we know, it could’ve finished 11th in Best Picture and sixth in Best Original Screenplay. Similarly, “The Lost Daughter” got a surprise bid for Jessie Buckley and is one of the two most acclaimed films in Best Actress, the other being “Parallel Mothers.” Colman also made SAG for an anti-SAG bait performance. Could she be the happy medium between the transformative biopic duo of Kidman and Chastain, and the highbrow passion picks of Stewart and Cruz?

SEE Full list of Oscar nominations

Christopher Rosen: I would never count Colman out for anything, and especially for a performance that’s unimpeachable like her work in “The Lost Daughter.” And like you said, it’s arguably that “The Lost Daughter” could have been close in other categories, including Best Picture and Best Director (maybe??). Can she win? Definitely! I could make the case for Cruz winning too. But let’s go back to Kidman before we sign off. I was bullish on her since November, and other than a brief flirtation with the Divine Miss Gaga (#justiceforpatrizia), she’s been the focus of my Best Actress predictions ever since. I still think she has a very good chance: It’s easy to imagine Kidman winning at the SAG Awards and also the Critics Choice Awards, and she’s been very active on the campaign trail. Maybe we’ve spent this week typing about what will, in hindsight, be very obvious: Nicole Kidman playing Lucille Ball is an Oscar-winning formula voters won’t pass up the chance to honor. Or maybe this ends in a five-way tie? I’ll leave you with the last word, help me figure this out!

joyceeng: Since none of them are up at BAFTA, we are guaranteed to not have a sweeper and I high-key hope we get different winners everywhere, even though I also currently have Kidman in first at SAG and the Oscars. This is far from Kidmaniacs’ favorite performance of hers and I know some don’t want her to win for this when she’s been overlooked for much stronger, daring work, but, you know, none of this stuff is guaranteed, so take it when you can. I’m just glad she at last has that fifth nomination (by comparison, Colman has already accrued three in four years). But hell if I know how this will unfold. Imagine if this madness ends in a tie though. Let’s channel that Ingrid Bergman energy.

via Gifer

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