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Emmy Review: Best Actress, Limited Series or Movie

We've been reviewing Emmy categories. Voting concludes next Monday with the ceremony on September 17th.

by Eric Blume

Entertainment writers have been crowing for a while about this category, claiming that it looks more like a Best Actress Oscar list than it does an Emmy list.  And it’s true, this year’s six nominees include four women who have already won that Oscar, along with two of television’s biggest names.  It’s an embarrassment of riches: six interesting, surprising, deep performances from six formidable actors...

  • Carrie Coon, Fargo
  • Felicity Huffman, American Crime
  • Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
  • Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
  • Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
  • Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies


Will win?  Felicity Huffman can safely be counted out:  she’s been nominated three years running in this category for different roles in the anthology series American Crime, and she was stronger in both other seasons and didn’t win.  Witherspoon was fantastic, and she dove deep into her character, unafraid of showing the annoying self-righteousness and self-sabotage as two of the many layers of a very complex creation…but Kidman had the more disturbing arc to play.  Similarly, Sarandon scaled Bette Davis’ humor, brittleness, intelligence, and loneliness week by week in an exciting performance, but had far less screen time than co-star Lange.  So the race seems to be between Kidman and Lange.  Kidman beautifully unpeeled the multi-layered darkness of an abusive relationship without cliché or sentimentality.  She and co-star Alexander Skarsgârd found something truly unique, intricate, and powerful together.  Lange treated Joan Crawford like a true tragic character:  she aimed big.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lange grab another trophy for this full-scale, full-throttle performance, but it feels like The Year of Kidman (a glorious thing to be able to say) for the win. 

will voters crown Nicole Kidman or stick with their Lange obsession?Should win?  Kidman.  Lange has some stupendous moments, but she’s claimed three Emmys in the last seven years -- it’s time to spread the wealth. 

Could spoil?  Carrie Coon.  It’s unlikely, but it’s possible if Kidman/Witherspoon and Lange/Sarandon split votes for their respective movies.  Coon delivers in spades in Fargo, plus she’s an actress with a colossal talent.  In another year, she’d emerge victorious, but she doesn’t have the buzz that Lange and Kidman have this time around.

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Reader Comments (61)

The thing about the panel system was not only what was on your own tape but also your costars.

This is all inside baseball, and mostly originates from Gold Derby's Tom O'Neill, who has many industry connections but is also a big gossip, so take it with a grain of salt:

Teri Hatcher was the favorite to win, but watching all three tapes back to back, panel voters thought her Susan shtick was repetitive, Marcia Cross was too stoic and understated and then Felicity Huffman came along with, not only a great tape herself (the pilot), but also a great arc on the Marcia Cross episode (allegedly seen last), putting down an obnoxious mom, taking ADD meds to be hyperproductuve and all sorts of shenanigans, which sealed the deal for her (most acting = best acting).

Of the three my personal choice would have been Marcia Cross, actually.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Carmen, I remember that, too. Marcia's episode ends with Felicity sobbing on the soccer field and revealing that she can't be SuperMom and is abusing her kids' ADHD medication. She was nominated again for "Bang!" in S3, which I think is one of the finest hours in TV ever. I'm sad Cross and Longoria never really got their due. Can you tell how much I missed that show? No wonder I loved BLL!

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

natalie- course you`re entitled to your own opinion and I respect it, but Nicole gives such intelligent performances, watch her tour de force in Birth, the film is bleak and she hits all the right notes just with her face, eyes, a key scene (the opera one) she conveys all her character`s emotions in a beautifully silent shot , the camera on her face and it is phenomenal. I think Reese is generally adequate, Jennifer Lawrence is adequate, Emma Stone is adequate....Nicole belongs to another whole category.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

Carrie or Reese please. In Reese vs Nicole, remember Rainman with Hoffman getting all the attention? Cruise had the more difficult role. I agree with Andrew R and others here--Reese over Nicole.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPam

To those who responded to me... Thank you. I have not seen birth. But z I have seen
most of her other work. Even in The Hours. Julianne Moore and Streep were so much better.
In the long run I still say adequate. I will try to find Birth. I am a person who can change my
mind if I see the product. However, one or two movies does not an actress make. She has
had plenty of duds.

August 24, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

This is the only time I've ever cared about an Emmy. Nicole Kidman is the performance of the year, film or television.

August 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Roger -- i'm almost scared to watch this year. I want Kidman to win so badly but things dont usually go my way on Emmy night. I count only 3 times i've been genuinely and utterly thrilled watching:in the past ten years. They were these wins, two of them arguably surprises.

Kristin Chenoweth winning 2009
Kyle Chandler winning 2011
Jon Hamm winning 2015

August 24, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I so clearly thought Reese won out over Nicole in BLL, We have seen Nicole's glacial mysterious take before, I thought Reese brought together the best of her together in once role, the cruel streak of election, the joy and fun of legally blonde and the steel of Wild, give it to Reese, her best performance ever - there I said it

August 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGizmo

Gizmo -- if Kidman has to lose that would be delightful.

August 24, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm in the minority but i thot Sarandon shld take it. True, her screentime is lesser than Lange, which has the bulk o the focus n she dun have a highly emotional send-off in finale (which really makes me cry, esp when Lange breakdowns in front o one o the grownup twins), but she makes her Bette Davis v believable n she really gets into Davis' skin!

Same cant b said o Lange.. True, it is a very grand n touching portrayal but u never believe for one sec, that she is Joan Crawford. Lange is essentially playing herself playing Crawford. A v good performance if we din alr kno who is Joan Crawford.

Plus she had alr won 3 fucking times! (One o them robbed from Drew Barrymore!!) n Sarandon has been nom for emmy mutiple times but haven won yet. So I said pls give it to Miss Susan Bette Sarandon Davis!!

August 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Jessica Lange defied all the odds. Emmy No 4

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

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