Oscar Experts Typing: Is Best Actress Cate Blanchett’s to lose?

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 discuss Best Actress frontrunner Cate Blanchett, who’s chasing her third Oscar.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s a Friday in the fall so we’re once again typing about the Oscars Best Actress race. On Thursday night, you got to see “TÁR” so let’s start with Cate the Great. She’s unbelievable in the movie and has received career-best reviews for her efforts. She also seems to win an Oscar every nine years, having triumphed at the 2005 ceremony for “The Aviator” and the 2014 ceremony for “Bl*e J*smine.” Cate Blanchett winning Best Actress again in 2023 just feels right. But when we were chatting about the movie before, you mentioned something that makes me question the end result of this race: “TÁR” is a movie about a terrible person who does some stupid things and doesn’t think she’ll ever get brought down. Blanchett’s acclaimed EGOT (lol)-winning conductor is not someone the audience necessarily roots for or maybe even likes — but Lydia Tár is incredibly funny and engaging and you kind of do want her to get over on all the “robots” (her term for the common folk who aren’t blessed with Emmys, Oscars, Grammys and Tonys, it would seem). When we talked about the Emmy race this year, we highlighted some of the presumed sexism in the academy that keeps ostensible “difficult” women from winning awards at the same clip as those famous difficult men like Tony Soprano and Don Draper. So, is Lydia Tár doomed to be the Oscars’ version of Shiv Roy? Or will her dismissive attitudes toward “cancel culture” and the idea of “separating the art from the artist” speak to those straw men I’m imagining?

joyceeng: We really need to know what Lydia Tár’s EGOT-winning projects were. It’s funny — while I was watching the film, I thought about our chat about “Bardo” and the gulf between its critical evisceration and its industry admiration out of Venice and Telluride. At worst, I think “TÁR” could foment the opposite reaction — it already has critical raves out the wazoo, but I can see it hitting too close to home for industry folk. “TÁR” is a breathtaking — and also very funny — self-aware story of a woman who lacks self-awareness about her relationship with her own ego. It examines the ruinous effects of narcissism whereas “Bardo” is more, let’s say, self-congratulatory. Or maybe they can relate to Lydia because they, too, feel that they’ve been wronged and no one understands their “genius” and “process”? Blanchett is all-time great here — this a case where you can believe the hype — and I did have the same thought about her ruthless character, but I also feel like her performance is ferocious and astonishing enough to transcend all that. Her character in “Blue Jasmine” was also “unlikable,” so I guess she’d be following in her own footsteps if she were to win again. I still have her in first, which I’m sure is music to Lydia’s ears.

SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Who is the Best Supporting Actress favorite now with Michelle Williams out?

Christopher Rosen: This is purely anecdotal — and secondhand too — but I recall hearing at Telluride that when Blanchett received her tribute medallion as one of this year’s Telluride Film Festival honorees, her speech had Anne Hathaway tearing up. “I think it’s interesting. You don’t see the performance, you see the process of making something. And that process is indelicate and impolite and full of doubt. And I think that that’s the state that [Lydia Tár] is in personally, as well as professionally,” Blanchett said in Telluride. That’s “the thing that the audience doesn’t see, they think of performers as being supremely confident channels,” she added. “And performers are riddled with doubt. And that the supreme act of bravery, is coming out and channeling the things through them, not for themselves, but for you guys.” So if that’s the angle of this campaign and her performance, I do think professionals — particularly actors and filmmakers — will relate to Lydia more than they’d care to admit. Plus, like I typed, it doesn’t hurt to have a lead character so dismissive of the masses and the media, right? (Let’s just say I don’t think it’s an accident that Lydia sits for an interview with Alec Baldwin in the film.) So we’re both gaga for Cate tha Great — and I do think she has the stuff of an undeniable winner in the vein of Daniel Day-Lewis for “There Will Be Blood.” But let’s devil’s advocate here and make some other arguments. Michelle Yeoh is the clear alternate choice to me — a longtime beloved favorite making good with a fun performance that flexes numerous muscles. I could see her winning, especially because I think “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the stronger Best Picture contender. Speaking of which: what a twist on this year’s Oscars, as it’s possible all five Best Actress nominees will come from Best Picture contenders, while perhaps none of the men will have such luck in the Best Actor field.

joyceeng: I cracked up at the Baldwin cameo because, as I’m sure you’ll recall, he was also in “The Aviator” and “Blue Jasmine.” Is Alec Baldwin Cate Blanchett’s Oscar lucky charm? More at 11. While I can easily see Blanchett plowing through the season again like she did with “Blue Jasmine,” I also hope she doesn’t, even if she winds up with the Oscar. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Best Actress is stacked and I would live for a down-to-the-wire race. Yeoh ought to take the comedy/musical Golden Globe and if she can manage the SAG Award as well, it can be enough to set her toward historic Oscar gold. And we can’t forget our girl Michelle Williams upgrading to lead in the strongest Best Picture contender of all. The Best Actor lineup won’t get goose-egged in Best Picture, but there is a high chance that more Best Actress nominees will hail from Best Picture nominees. What a difference a year makes. We came close to a Best Actress-Best Picture match five years ago — another very competitive Best Actress field — if not for “I, Tonya’s” snub in the latter. That race ended with someone winning her second Best Actress Oscar over someone in a Steven Spielberg film and Margot Robbie, a situation that can play out again this year. But you’ve been light on “Babylon” overall.

SEE Oscar Experts slugfeset: Why you shouldn’t count out Michelle Williams in Best Actress

Christopher Rosen: Maybe it’s a self-preservation instinct? To be clear, “Babylon” is my most-anticipated movie of the whole year, and I’d love to see it land with an undeniable response. Give it 13 nominations, four acting nominations, and let’s go!! But for now, I’m keeping Robbie outside — and even if the movie is the success I imagine, I could still see her falling short. The lineup is so loaded and deep with some super enticing Oscar bait. If it comes down to Robbie and Naomi Ackie for that last spot, for instance, I think the lure of an awards-y biopic would prevail. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we typed about Best Actress, so let’s end here with your “TÁR” thoughts. How many nominations do you think it can get, and now that you’ve seen it, how do you think its supporting actress contenders will shake out?

joyceeng: I can see it getting in the seven-to-eight range, but the one category I walked out of the theater really wanting it to get is Best Sound. The sound design is impeccable and this week’s trailer is basically a showcase for it. It’s a combined category now, but musicals and music-based films historically did well in sound mixing. Bring on “TÁR” vs. “Elvis.” I tossed in Nina Hoss weeks ago in supporting, which is in disarray now with Williams’ departure, and I may just keep her there until the bitter end. She feels like the type of nominee who might miss some, if not all, precursors but show up on nomination morning, and I am not going to underestimate the power of a Cate coattail.

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