Emma Stone to Sandra Hüller: Decoding the Best Actress frontrunners for the Oscars

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The big three film festivals- Berlin, Cannes and Venice, are over. Cue to the crucial fall film festivals- Telluride and Toronto, which are still ongoing. These are but essential in providing a road map to the Oscars next year, and if there’s one category that is stacked it is the Best Actress in a Leading Role. (Also read: Poor Things to Maestro: 10 films premiering at the 2023 Venice Film Festival that we can’t wait to watch)

Emma Stone, Sandra Hüller and Margot Robbie are in the running for the Best Actress Oscar race this year.

Fresh out of Venice

Venice Film Festival provides a sure-shot lead when it comes to the category, given how the Volpi Cup for Best Actress award chosen by the festival often translates into an Oscar nomination. The streak is unbeatable at this point- four of the past winners in the past five years of the festival have gone on to secure an Oscar nomination, with one winning. The list includes Olivia Colman for The Favourite (2018), Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman (2020), Penélope Cruz for Parallel Mothers (2021) and Cate Blanchett for Tár (2022).

This should leave the most recent winner in the category, Cailee Spaeny for Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla beaming with joy. Cailee has never been nominated before, and the Academy loves honouring a newcomer in an author-backed biopic. Given how Priscilla reconstructs the narrative introduced by Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, that got star Austin Butler a Best Actor nomination, Priscilla could bode very well with the Academy members.

The other big showdown that burst out of Venice was Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things. Critics showered raved reviews upon its premiere calling it the best film the Greek filmmaker has ever made, boasting a career-best turn for star Emma Stone. Although the Oscar winning actor, who had already won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for La La Land a few years ago, didn’t receive it this time around, her film took home the highest honour at the festival- the Golden Lion for Best Film. Her fourth Oscar nomination is now locked. A second Oscar win? Only time will tell.

A lot of buzz for Sandra Hüller

Interestingly, Stone’s trajectory is quite similar to another film festival breakout- German actor Sandra Hüller for Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest, both of which triumphed at Cannes Film Festival. The 45 year-old starred in two of the strongest competition titles at Cannes, where many predicted her to win the Best Actress award. Yet, her films took precedence over her acclaimed turns. French director Justine Triet won the coveted Palme d’Or and The Zone of Interest brought in the Grand Prix, the second topmost award at Cannes. The one who surprisingly scooped Best Actress at Cannes was Turkish actor Merve Dizdar for Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses.

Last week, Variety reported that Sandra Hüller will be campaigning in the Best Supporting Actress category for The Zone of Interest, while her work in Anatomy of a Fall, would certainly push her in the Lead category. If she is able to crack into both the categories, Sandra would make history as the first actress to mark double nominations for two non-English language performances in the same year.

Besides these performances, other contenders vying for a spot in the Best Actress race include Carey Mulligan in Maestro (directed by Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, and premiered at Venice), Annette Bening in NYAD (Bening is a beloved industry veteran who has never won, and her film just premiered at Telluride), Natalie Portman in May December (predictably received great reviews after the Cannes premiere), Greta Lee in Past Lives (a solid breakout performance that has been in the buzz since its premiere at Berlin earlier this year), Margot Robbie in this year’s biggest film Barbie, and Fantasia Barrino in The Color Purple (opening in theatres this Christmas).



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