Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) is not out of the Best Actress Oscar race, as many awards pundits may think. In the days leading up to the Academy Awards ceremony, many doubts start to fester in people’s minds about who will actually win in the divided categories. With all of the information now available (including anonymous Oscar ballots and the precursor awards), combined with a gut feeling of what will happen on Sunday night, many will change their predictions and potentially turn everything upside-down. That will be the case for me in the Best Actress category. Here are five reasons why I predict Penelope Cruz will win the Oscar for “Parallel Mothers.”
1. She leads the anonymous ballots by a lot.
While only representing a small portion of the academy, the anonymous ballots published around the web, including by Gold Derby’s Chris Beachum, have given us a sneak peek of what may transpire come Oscar night. In what has been a wide open race in this category, one would think that the votes would be closer to each other than expected. However, as of this writing, Cruz leads the pack by a significantly wide margin, tripling Jessica Chastain’s (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) overall vote total thus far, with Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) not far behind Chastain, and Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) and Nicole Kidman (“Being The Ricardos”) at the bottom. In the five secret Gold Derby ballots, only two voters swayed toward Chastain, who has become a default frontrunner due to her recent SAG and Critics Choice wins; two other voters went for Cruz and the last one chose Stewart.
2. Campaign of Sony Pictures Classics.
Sony Pictures Classics, which distributes “Parallel Mothers,” has been known to run a savvy, behind-the-scenes campaign with the Oscars, especially in the lead-up to voting. They were responsible for Marcia Gay Harden pulling a shocker of a win in Best Supporting Actress for “Pollock” in 2001, after not being nominated for any of the precursor awards (similar to Cruz). Their campaigning recently helped Anthony Hopkins for “The Father” defeat Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” last year, after Boseman was conclusively deemed the favorite in Best Actor. “Parallel Mothers” has been the most visible it has ever been, being in movie theaters for months and available on VOD weeks before Oscar voting commenced.
3. Cruz gives a dominating performance.
Many critic outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap have pointed out that Cruz gives a career-best performance in “Parallel Mothers,” which is no surprise given the director is Pedro Almodóvar, with whom Cruz has worked with multiple times and is considered his muse. Cruz is completely in her element here as Janis Martínez Moreno, a secretive mother uncertain of her biological relationship with her newborn daughter. The actress delivers emotions of grief, sorrow, anger and pain, without making it too melodramatic, while also delivering plenty of explosive “Oscar bait” scenes. It also doesn’t hurt that academy members are already proven fans of Cruz, giving her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008).
4. “Parallel Mothers” has an additional nomination in Best Score.
It’s important to note that Cruz is not the sole nomination for “Parallel Mothers,” as it also received a bid for its score for composer Alberto Iglesias. The last time someone claimed an acting Oscar after being the only nomination for their film was Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) seven years ago, so the extra mention for Best Score helps Cruz overcome any potential deficit. I would go a step further and argue “Parallel Mothers” would have easily been nominated for Best International Film, as it did with the Golden Globes and BAFTA, had Spain submitted it. Since each country is only allowed one submission in the category, Spain instead chose “The Good Boss,” starring Cruz’s husband Javier Bardem, thus making “Parallel Mothers” ineligible there.
5. There is a passion for Cruz.
As we have seen in recent years with the Oscars, devotion for a nominee will often win out when there is uncertainty. Despite Cruz missing all of the major precursor awards (hence her low Gold Derby placement for many weeks), she has a passion behind her from people who have seen “Parallel Mothers,” as those anonymous ballots have shown, not to mention she has won key critics’ awards for Best Actress, like Los Angeles and National Society, as well as the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival. While Chastain may have picked up the SAG Award, the expansion of AFTRA has made the voting body have less correlation with the Oscars. Critics Choice was held right after the SAG Awards and has no academy overlap, the Golden Globe went to Kidman, and BAFTA for the first time had no Best Actress nominees at the Oscars. Out of the 27 experts at Gold Derby, five of them have Cruz winning (including our own Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen), while 11 have her third or higher. With Best Actress not having a truly solid frontrunner, Cruz is definitely someone who should not be underestimated.
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