With the Oscars 2022 merely a few days away, I was mulling over yet another year of strong female leads. Last year saw stalwarts like Viola Davis, Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan compete against new entrants Andra Day and Vanessa Kirby. All my bets were on Vanessa Kirby’s portrayal of Martha Weiss in Pieces of a Woman. Sadly, she didn’t make it, but who can complain if one loses to Frances McDormand.
This year is no different! We have the most brilliant performers yet again in the top 5. At this point, I believe the Academy should extend this category to at least 10 contenders. It is unfair that there are too many snubs this year. Well, that is just me being greedy. Or am I? Is it too much to ask? Let’s dive into these 5 nominations (in no particular order of preference) before I start my elaborate venting machine for the ones who were brutally snubbed by the Academy.
Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Under layers of flawless prosthetics hides Tammy Faye, portrayed phenomenally by Jessica Chastain. Here’s a woman who has been told all her life that she is not conventionally good-looking, so she starts seeking refuge in her makeup. To the point where she can’t let go of it and gets some of it permanently painted on her face. The lines get blurred for her, and so does for Jessica as an actor. She makes the character utterly believable that I can’t think of any other actress portraying the magnitude and layers of Tammy Faye Messner.
I Recommend: Look out for her in HBO’s new drama Scenes from a Marriage, where she shares screen space with Oscar Isaac. 2021 has been her long impending breakthrough for sure!
Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter)
Olivia Colman is by now an Academy baby. Having gotten the nod in 2019 for The Favourite and nominated again in 2021 for The Father, this is her third Oscar nomination. Olivia’s rise as one of the most sought-after performers is mind-boggling. Within about half a decade, she is ruling both the movies and television. The Lost Daughter is one of my favourite films of this year. Olivia’s Leda Caruso is hopeless and hopeful, broken and strong, empathetic and evil, and lost and found. For me, all these emotions come alive through Olivia’s eyes. How does she do it, I’ll never know! I can watch her act all day, every day and never get tired of the treasure chest of talent that she is.
I Recommend: Her presence in Fleabag lifts that already brilliant show by leaps and bounds. Her conniving antics are an absolute delight to watch!
Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)
Penélope deserves so much more than she gets due for. I know, I know, this is her fourth Oscar nomination and yet I’d say that’s not enough recognition. I am not sure how I can say anything about this performance without giving out any spoilers, but I’ll try. Her character, Janis, oscillates between what she wants, what she has and what she can’t have. Penélope gets into the skin of Janis, who is on the verge of losing her entire world in a snap and boy, does she deliver!
I fell in love with her work right from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and since then she has only aged like fine wine. Here’s hoping that she continues to get such amazing projects.
I Recommend: Check out her performances in the 2019 Spanish film Pain and Glory and as Donatella Versace in The Assassination of Gianni Versace to fall in love with her craft all over again.
Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
I am a huge fan of I Love Lucy. I was stoked when I heard that Nicole Kidman would be portraying the character of Lucille Ball. Nicole performed Lucille’s mannerisms to perfection. She gave us a woman who was unapologetic about her choices in both her personal and professional life. She stood her ground to make things happen her way. There is a sequence in the film where they shot a scene of I Love Lucy through several narratives. Nicole’s calibre makes all of them believable, and you get a glimpse into the story and Lucille Ball through multiple lenses.
I Recommend: Three words: BIG LITTLE LIES! and obviously I can’t end the list at that. I have to add a few more recent ones. Bombshell, Boy Erased, and Lion.
Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
Kristen is one actor who has had the hardest journey to prove her worth. She has been mocked right from her Twilight days as the actor who had a total of zero facial expressions for any scene she did. What people failed to follow was her journey as she grew into a fine actress over the years. So, when it was announced that Kristen would be playing Princess Diana, all hell broke loose. And then she arrived and how! She shut all mouths with her career-best performance.
We have seen several actors playing Princess Diana over the years, most recently, Jeanna de Waal in 2021, followed by Emma Corrin in 2020, Naomi Watts in 2013 and believe it or not, Madonna in 1985. I feel that Kristen Stewart was the best Diana ever. She was the culmination of everyone who came before her and tons of books on Princess Diana’s life. Somehow, it was like all of them came alive through this one person who gave their all to this one role. It was as if she knew that this was her one shot to prove what she had to offer.
I Recommend: Watch her come alive in Clouds of Sils Maria, Certain Women, and Personal Shopper.
And now the snubs…
Milena Smit (Parallel Mothers)
Milena was a discovery for me. She embodied the character of Ana, a woman who wrote her path after she was wronged by everyone in her life, exceptionally. I hope to see more of her.
Sally Hawkins (Spencer)
Oh, how I love Sally Hawkins! She played the role of Princess Diana’s dresser, and by extension, her confidant. Her’s is the role of very few words, but I believe, the most significant in the entire film. Imagine an actor who owned every frame in The Shape of Water and Blue Jasmine (she was also nominated for an Oscar for both of these roles), take up a role this short. It shows how secure she is as both a person and a performer.
I Recommend: Besides the two films I mentioned above, please watch Maudie, a Canadian film shot in Newfoundland and Labrador and centred in Nova Scotia. That film is poetry in motion. Also, just for the thrill of it, check her out in the recent Christmas movie, A Boy Called Christmas. She plays the role of Mother Vodol, an evil elf witch. It is so cute to see her take herself seriously in that role. The fact that she is aware of this absurdity makes it funny and worthwhile.
Lady Gaga (House of Gucci)
I mean, she is a non-actor, and yet she made her mark in just two films. She was outstanding in A Star is Born, and for me, she was equally good in House of Gucci. It was not an easy character to portray. Lady Gaga’s mere conviction to pull-off Patrizia Reggiana effortlessly should have earned her a nomination.
Cate Blanchett (Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up)
Cate managed to give one of the best performances this year in Nightmare Alley, and not just this, her role in Don’t look Up leaves you awestruck as well. Then why would the Academy ignore her this brutally? Is it because the length of both these roles wasn’t long enough to qualify for a nomination? If that is the reason, can we file a petition somewhere to change this absurd rule? Both her characters are poles apart from each other and yet this woman leaves no stone unturned to display her genius.
I Recommend: This would be a never-ending list. I’ll try to stick to just a few here. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Carol, and Blue Jasmine.
Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World)
Another discovery, another phenomenal performer. The fact that a Norwegian film made it to the Oscars and got two nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film is a feat in itself. For me, it is Renate’s performance that makes the film what it is. She won the best actress award for her portrayal of Julie at the Cannes Film Festival, 2021. It would have been great to see her get a nod from the Academy.
Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga (Passing)
To say that both these women performed brilliantly would be an understatement. But what’s the point of fighting to get them the Academy’s recognition when it ignored this film entirely! Passing managed to get 4 BAFTA and even 1 SAG nomination, yet the Academy turned a blind eye towards it.
Caitriona Balfe (Belfast)
She had the most important role to play in this exceptional film, of course, after Jude Hill. The film got nominated for 7 Oscars, with even Judi Dench getting a nod for supporting actress, which she rightfully deserves. Then why would you ignore Caitriona’s outstanding portrayal of Ma, who is torn between giving the best life to her child and saving him from the monstrosities of the falling world around them?
I Recommend: Ford v Ferrari
Rita Moreno (West Side Story)
Rita Moreno is a force of nature. She portrayed the character of Anita in the original 1961’s West Side Story, and now 60 years later, she played Valentina with absolute perfection. The fact that the same actor was in the same movie after SIXTY years should have been enough to give her a nomination. And it’s not like she doesn’t deserve accolades for her acting. She is still one of the best we have.
I Recommend: Watch her as the lovely matriarch in One Day at a Time. She is funny, caring, thoughtful, progressive, understanding, and everything else in this beautiful show. Who wouldn’t want a granny who loves to make an entrance and cooks breakfast for you while dancing every morning!
Dakota Johnson (The Lost Daughter)
She is another woman who keeps bettering her craft and surprises us ever so often. She is spellbinding both as the mother, who is searching for her lost daughter, and even better as the woman who wants to break free from the familial ties that have stripped her of her independence. As much as I am happy for Jessie Buckley’s nomination, I wish Dakota got her own.
I Recommend: Dakota is a treat to watch in Suspiria. I can vouch for that film as a fine example of her acting prowess.
My bets are on…
I genuinely hope and pray that this should be the year of Kristen Stewart. After all this while, she deserves this win the most. If for some weird reason, the jury doesn’t see that, I would love for Penélope Cruz to bag the Oscar. More often than not, my thoughts are not the popular ones, and for this reason, it looks like they could go with Olivia Colman, the safest choice at this point. Honestly, all 5 women were great, and it won’t be too sad if any of them wins over the other, but can I say one more time, please, KRISTEN STEWART.
What are some of your favourite performances this year? Who do you think should or should not have made it to the list? Let’s discuss this in the comments section below!
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Featured Image Source: Los Angeles Times