Todd Field has been here before with a lead actress Oscar frontrunner. It didn’t turn out so well last time

Todd Field was flying high with his film “In the Bedroom” in 2002. It was nominated for five Oscars: picture, lead actress (Sissy Spacek), lead actor (Tom Wilkinson), supporting actress (Marisa Tomei) and adapted screenplay for a film he cowrote.. As the movie’s producer, he was personally nominated twice. What’s more, he had the heavy category favorite for Best Actress in Spacek, a six-time nominee who had already won once for “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in 1981. She’d also won that year at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards and was considered something of an Oscar shoo-in.

But things don’t always go according to plan. “In the Bedroom” would be shut out entirely on Oscar night. Spacek would be defeated in the Best Actress race by Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball,” the first and only woman of color to win for lead actress at the Academy Awards to date.

Now here we go again. Field is back as a personal three-time nominee for “TÁR”: for picture, directing and original screenplay. And he boasts the clear frontrunner for Best Actress in Cate Blanchett. Like Spacek, she’s already won Golden Globe and Critics Choice statuettes, as well as the New York Film Critics Circle Award, the award from the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association honor for her role as the famed (fictitious) conductor Lydia Tár. She’s also the heavy favorite for the Screen Actors Guild Award, the BAFTA and the Academy Award. One difference this time is that there is no African American performer in the category to deny Blanchett, as neither Danielle Deadwyler nor Viola Davis made the cut as nominees amid controversy that both were passed over.

Nobody gave Berry much of a chance to win back in 2002, but win she did. The thing is, no one is ever completely sure how these things will turn out. Moreover, this lead actress lineup of nominees is a particularly fascinating one, and a legitimate case can be made for each of them. Well, most of them, anyway.

Let’s take them one at a time:

Blanchett: She’s swept through awards season so far and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s her eighth Oscar nom in 24 years, dating back to “Elizabeth” in 1999, and she’s won twice: as supporting actress for “The Aviator” in 2005 and as lead actress for “Blue Jasmine” in 2014. With apologies to Meryl Streep, the Aussie is widely considered the finest actress of her generation, and she did nothing to dissuade anyone from that view with her muscular performance in “TÁR.” It looks like it may take a small miracle to keep Blanchett from taking the stage this time.

Ana de Armas (“Blonde”): The Cuban-born de Armas surprised a lot of people with her Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA nominations for her incandescent performance as Marilyn Monroe in a film many found otherwise forgettable. She made it onto everyone’s radar with her work in “Knives Out” in 2019, but her move up the ladder as a major awards season player was a particularly swift one. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a shot at winning, however. Huge upsets happen, and there’s an outside chance that voters will want to crown the first-ever Latina to take home the lead actress hardware. (Only two Latinas have won in the acting categories to date, both in supporting for “West Side Story” in the role of Anita: Rita Moreno for the 1962 original and Ariana DeBose for the remake in 2022.)

Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”): The sublimely talented star of the microbudget indie “To Leslie” proved through her nomination that there is more than one effective way to skin a cat. She eschewed the time-consuming and expensive gauntlet of endless interviews and promo events for the low-cost alternative of permitting a massive array of big-name A-listers to do your campaigning for you all over social media. It worked better than anyone could have dreamed. You might think that the 41-year-old British actress who has 53 roles to her credit dating back to 2005 has co chance and that the triumph is in her having been nominated at all. But voters may also want to prove a point about the effectiveness of a grassroots movement.

(Note: the film academy is now conducting an investigation into whether Riseborough’s campaign violated lobbying rules, without directly naming the actress. A statement from the academy released on Friday noted, “It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner, and we are committed to ensuring an inclusive awards process. We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication. We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.”)

SEE Michelle Yeoh on ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ breaking the glass ceiling for Asian actors: ‘I hope we’ve ninja-kicked it to hell’

Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”): This is the fifth Oscar nomination for Williams and her third in a leading role (the first two being “Blue Valentine” in 2011 and “My Week with Marilyn” in 2012). As terrific a performance as she gives in “The Fabelmans” as the wife and mother, by the time the Academy Award nominations rolled around this week, many were surprised she made it in thanks to confusion over whether she should go lead or supporting. Thus, she’s a sleeper contender who could be the last one left standing if the dominos fall just right. But don’t bet on it.

Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once): The most powerful wild card in this deck with the best chance of derailing the Blanchett Express, the former Miss Malaysia has persevered through a 40-year career during which she has never been given her due. Yeoh is casting her success during awards season as being representative of the hopes and dreams of every Asian actress who has been cast aside and/or underappreciated. It’s a powerful message to run on, and it just might work. It will help that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” may be running the table on Oscar night.

PREDICT the 2023 Oscar winners through March 12

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