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Wednesday
Feb062019

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet and the *next* Best Actress Race

That was quick. There are only four spots left in the next Best Actress Oscar race.

We kid, we kid. Academy Award nomination races aren't sewn up half as quickly as the internet always pretends they are. Nevertheless it's hard to deny that on paper Cynthia Erivo playing Harriett Tubman (there's your first still above) reads just right for major Oscar attention.

There are so many ways in which this seems likely without seeing a single clip. Let us count them... 

  1. Erivo proved this past year that her stage chops and magnetic presence (Tony win for The Color Purple  in which she was quite awesome despite the enormous shadow of Whoopi Goldberg) transfer well to the movies (Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale) so chances are she wins strong reviews because she's gifted.
  2. Honestly who deserves a biopic more than Harriett Tubman? And even if the movie isn't good (we won't know for awhile) awards voters have a very difficult time discerning between important worthy topic and good film.
  3. Awards voters of most stripes (but especially Oscar voters) cannot get enough of biopic performances. They've never been able to shake this fetish. You don't even have to be particularly good to get nominated so long as you're playing a famous person and the film is either critically well received or audience popular.
  4. A strong / appealing supporting cast really helps leading ladies or leading men shine and she's got one: Joe Alwyn (♥︎), Janelle Monae (♥︎), Jennifer Nettles, and Leslie Odom Jr. 
  5. The movie has an African-American cowriter/director (Yay, Kasi Lemmons back to feature directing!) and several department heads of color (Oscar-nominated Terence Blanchard on score, and former Emmy players Warren Alan Young, Paul Tazewell, Angie Wells on production design and costumes and makeup, respectively*) so it won't get attacked for representation and optics which has proven a politic minefield for many movies of late.
  6. Viola Davis's competing Harriett Tubman project is not happening any time soon if at all. It's still on her roster but these things have a way of falling apart if another movie gets there first.

And while we're on this topic...

We JUST started looking at what's coming up this year for those April Foolish Oscar predictions so here's a list of actresses who have possibly noteworthy films coming this year. (This list is still in progress... there's so much research left to do but why not share it with you since you can always add to it in the comments)

ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams, Woman in the Window
  • Gemma Arterton, Summerland
  • Awkwafina, The Farewell
  • Jillian Bell, Brittany Runs a Marathon
  • Cate Blanchett, Where'd Ya Go Bernadette?
  • Rose Byrne, Limited Partners
  • Honor Swinton Byrne, The Souvenir
  • Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
  • Cynthia Erivo, Harriett
  • Elle Fanning, All the Bright Places
  • Holliday Grainger, Animals
  • Keira Knightley, Official Secrets
  • Tiffany Haddish, Limited Partners
  • Linda Hamilton, Untitled Terminator Project
  • Anne Hathaway, The Last Thing He Wanted / The Hustle
  • Taraji P Henson, The Best of Enemies
  • Isabelle Huppert, Greta
  • Mindy Kaling, Late Night 
  • Riley Keough, The Lodge
  • Brie Larson, Captain Marvel
  • Helen Mirren, The Good Liar
  • Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell / After the Wedding
  • Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell
  • Lupita Nyong'o, Us
  • Sarah Paulson, The Goldfinch
  • Rosamund Pike, Radioactive
  • Florence Pugh, Fighting with my Family / Midsommar
  • Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  • Charlize Theron, Untitled Roger Aisles Project / Long Shot
  • Alicia Vikander, Earthquake Bird
  • Mia Wasikowska, Judy & Punch
  • Alfred Woodard, Clemency
  • Renee Zellweger, Judy

SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

  • Zazie Beets, High Flying Bird / Joker / Lucy in the Sky / Against All Enemies
  • Annette Bening, The Report
  • Danielle Brooks, Clemency 
  • Gwendolyn Christie, The Personal History of David Copperfield
  • Lily Collins, Tolkien
  • Penélope Cruz, Pain & Glory
  • Olivia Colman, Them That Follow
  • Viola Davis, Troop Zero
  • Laura Dern, Little Women
  • Dakota Fanning, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Joanna Froggat, Downton Abbey
  • Anne Hathaway, Untitled Todd Haynes Project 
  • Anne Heche, The Best of Enemies
  • Jennifer Hudson, Cats
  • Alison Janney, Troop Zero
  • Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
  • Nicole Kidman, Untitled Roger Aisle Project / The Goldfinch
  • Sophie Lowe, Above Suspicion / Medieval
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Summerland
  • Thomasin McKenzie, The King / Lost Girls / Jojo Rabbit
  • Julianne Moore, Woman in the Window
  • Elisabeth Moss, Us / The Kitchen
  • Ruth Negga, Ad Astra
  • Sarah Paulson, The Goldfinch
  • Margaret Qualley, Adam
  • Margot Robbie, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
  • Octavia Spencer, Luce
  • Imelda Staunton, Downton Abbey
  • Meryl Streep, Little Women
  • Tilda Swinton, The Personal History of David Copperfield
  • Emma Thompson, Late Night (or maybe lead like in a Devil Wears Prada way?)
  • Marisa Tomei, Frankie
  • Michelle Williams, After the Wedding
  • Naomi Watts, Luce
  • Mare Winningham, Untitled Todd Haynes Project

SIZE OF ROLE ???

  • Laura Dern, Untitled Noah Baumbach
  • Tiffany Haddish, The Kitchen
  • Scarlett Johansson, Untitled Noah Baumbach
  • Melissa McCarthy, The Kitchen 
  • Elisabeth Moss, The Kitchen
  • Margaret Qualley, Against All Enemies
  • Kristen Stewart, Against All Enemies (she's playing the focal point of the plot / other characters but from descriptions it doesn't sound like it's necessarily the lead) 
  • Meryl Streep, The Laundromat

* Yes, while I'm building each year's Oscar charts before they premiere in April, I am obsessively looking at below-the-line players as well when movies are announced. I'm terribly sad this year that Oscar has now deemed all these artist, who contribute so much to the movies, as lesser-than. It will only hurt the public perception of the art of filmmaking -- the very last thing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences should ever want to do.

 

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Reader Comments (57)

I loved her until she got involved in the Great Comet drama. My opinion of her soured after that.

I'm really hoping JUDY turns out to be a good surprise contender. I won't hold my breath, but it'd be cool to see Renee return to form again. I miss when you were a fan of hers! LOL

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Davis' Tubman project is for HBO. And concentrates on the latter part of her life.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

How we have gone this long w/o a Harriet Tubman biopic is anybody's guess. I'm looking forward to it, hope it's good!

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Maybe going Supporting will finally get Miss Bening up there?

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I wonder if the recent expose in the New Yorker on the author of "The Woman in the Window" will have any effect on Amy Adams's film version. I imagine the movie will go the way of "The Girl on the Train."

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Kate Winslet (likely lead); Saoirse Ronan (likely supp) -- Ammonite

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I too am excited for Zellweger in Judy but I so wanted Anne Hathaway to play that role. I know she's a little too young but God she would have been perfect. Maybe she'll play her someday.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Fun fact: If Cynthia Erivo manages to win Best Actress next year, she and Viola Davis will be just one letter short of an EGOT. (Viola has no Grammy, while Cynthia won for The Color Purple’s cast recording and needs an Emmy.)

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

Nathaniel, unfortunately SPC gave All is True a barely-noticed qualifying run and it appeared on the 2018 Academy Reminder List of Eligible Releases. Dench and Chakrabarti's Oscar chances for that one are already dead.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Shetina

Penélope is supporting in Dolor y gloria.

I believe All Is True had a limited run

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Perhaps Anna Paquin in supporting for "The Irishman".

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Does anyone else see the Academy welcoming Glenn Close back for another nomination. She said they've found a director for Sunset Boulevard musical and will start filming this year. If they can get it out before Christmas, knowing that she'll nail it, I don't see the Academy passing her up for such a gargantuan role.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMustafa

Erivo has a (Daytime) Emmy for a performance on GMA or something, so she just needs the O.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Nathaniel Native Son has been sold to HBO TV recently alongside Share.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLeon

I have high hopes for THE LAST THING HE WANTED - based on a Joan Didion novel, directed by Dee Rees, starring Anne H and Willem Dafoe.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Riley Keough in Zola.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Forgive the comparison but I can see Erivo going the way of "problematic star in problematic movie coasts on biopic laurels to an unpopular Oscar win." Her casting alone caused some outrage. Who knows if the movie itself will pass the Twitter smell test, and as someone else noted she's been kind of messy in the past.

All that could go awry and I can still see her winning.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJF

Isn't it about time Scarlett Johansson got her first nomination.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Natalie Portman in Lucy in the Sky.

Dench won this year's AARP Supporting Actress Award for All Is True (not a joke).

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

GRETA is already my favourite movie I haven’t seen, but it’s coming out so soon. (Though I hear Huppert is brilliant). I don’t know if it will go that far.

Watch out for Huppert in FRANKIE as her second nom contender. It’s directed by Ira Sachs, and they even changed the title of the film to her character’s name. She was already on the cover for Cahiers du Cinema. We should expect it in the fall... and hopefully SPC picks it up.

Sachs seems to favor Berlin. (Has that lineup been announced yet?!) if it does compete there. I hope she completes the Best Actress Festival trifecta.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Mike - I didn’t know that! Thanks for the correction.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

Blackbird is a remake of Danish film Silent Heart (3 best actress nods in to the 2015 Bodil awards) is currently in post with Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon, Mia Wasikowska and Lindsay Duncan. Not sure who is in which part but there could be plenty to dig into.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

We need a GREAT Harriet Tubman film. But even if this is simply good, I think Erivo is a big threat. I'm rooting for the film and for her.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

This role is definitely the most baity one on the Actress horizon. Would love to see Erivo slay.

I'm saying it now, I am ALL IN on Pain & Glory. It is Pedro's time goddammit.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

My ridiculously early hopefuls:

Actress: Erivo
Actor: Banderas, Pain & Glory
Sup Actress: Bening, The Report
Sup Actor: Lithgow, Roger Ailes movie

I would be ecstatic to see any of these individuals win an Oscar.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

you should look up what black americans think of that casting Nathaniel, they are not here for it.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterhun

forever1267, If we trust Murtada then Bening is a no, but entertaing at least.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSher

@Mustafa

Darling, what a news! 🙌🏻🙌🏻 If they release this year or next, is Glenn for the second!!!! OMG!!!

Question: if that happening (Glenn winning the Oscars for leading actress for The Wife and Sunset Blvd, she will be the second 70 year old actress to do this behind Katherine Hepburn or am I wrong? Be careful Meryl: Glenn will be three times best actress winner till 2025! 😘

----

SOUVENIR
Honor Swinton - leading
Where is?

BLACKBIRD:
Kate Winslet / Mia Wasikowska leadings (?)
Susan Sarandon supporting

Why not in the list? Post-Production right now (Kate is filming The French D. with Wes Anderson and between March / April, Ammonite with Saoirse Ronan).

My most anticipated movies of 2019 are:

Ad Astra - James Gray
West Side Story - Spielberg
Pain and Gain - Almodóvar
The Irishman - Scorsese
Blackbird
Once upon a time in Hollywood
Roger Allies - Charlize Theron
Ferrari vs Ford - James Mangold
The Many Saints of Newark - David Chase
The Woman in the Window - Joe Wright
The Farewell
Luce - Octavia Spencer
Monos
Souvenir
Deadwood - Ian McShaine

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoshua

Hi Sher - I didn't like The Report but many people @ Sundance did. If Bening gets the right campaign, she might get nominated. You know how they like actors plaing real people.

February 6, 2019 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

Actress is Saoirses.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

Hun - do share. I am not sure what ur referring to. Why don’t people like the casting?

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Nathaniel - Erivo's casting is controversial to some because she is British and of Nigerian origin playing an African American role.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

I watched Greta at TIFF and it is in no way an Oscar contender. It's hilarious and pure camp. Isabelle Huppert goes for it completely (doesn't she always though?) and it is a wildly entertaining performance but I don't think anyone other than trash/bad-movie fans will enjoy it.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

My current predictions would be:

1. Cynthia Erivo - HARRIET (Focus, dir. Kasi Lemmons)
2. Natalie Portman - LUCY IN THE SKY (Fox Searchlight, dir. Noah Hawley)
3. Charlize Theron - FAIR AND BALANCED (Lionsgate, dir. Jay Roach)
4. Anne Hathaway - THE LAST THING HE WANTED (Netflix, dir. Dee Rees)
5. Meryl Streep - THE LAUNDROMAT (Netflix, dir. Steven Soderbergh)

alt. Saoirse Ronan, LITTLE WOMEN (Sony, dir. Greta Gerwig) or Jodie Turner-Smith, QUEEN & SLIM (Universal, dir. Melina Matsoukas)


1. Margot Robbie - ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Sony, dir. Quentin Tarantino)
2. Allison Janney - FAIR AND BALANCED (Lionsgate, dir. Jay Roach)
3. Zazie Beetz - LUCY IN THE SKY (Fox Searchlight, dir. Noah Hawley)
4. Emma Watson - LITTLE WOMEN (Sony, dir. Greta Gerwig)
5. Sarah Paulson - THE GOLDFINCH (Warner Bros, dir. John Crowley)

alt. Laura Dern, LITTLE WOMEN (Sony, dir. Greta Gerwig) or Janelle Monae, HARRIET (Focus, dir. Kasi Lemmons)

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I learned about Harriet Tubman in the first grade . I couldn’t believe what the teacher was telling us about her. There was a Black Women who was a slave who freed other slaves? I couldn’t believe it. Plus she reminded me of my grandma. I am so excited for this movie and I hope it’s great. I really don’t mind that she is British, I just hope she does a good job.

February 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

Seriously? This is controversial casting? THIS!?

Because British actresses of Nigerian background have had it far too easy for far too long? How very dare they hog all the opportunities?

And in Left-Wing-Puritania this isn't even a topic of discussion, it's already a neat conclusion. Because We The Left-Wing-Pure are already so certain we are right, we can confidently skip right over debate and veer straight into righteous outrage:
how very dare this woman venture beyond the neat little demographic box we have assigned her to!

...
...
...

How did the world get this messed up this quickly?

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commentergoran

hun - Please don’t speak for all African-Americans - esp. if you’re not part of the community, and even then... Sam Jackson may have problems with this sort of thing, but that doesn’t mean we all do. And I’m sure those of us who do still know how hard it is for ANY member of the African diaspora to find opportunities in Hollywood, so I say pick your battles wisely and hope another POC finally wins Best Actress.

Furthermore, are we gonna rescind the noms/wins for Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor, et al.? If this controversy picks up steam, it’ll be because of misguided white liberals - but I doubt it will because it’s such a complex, scary dialogue for non-POC’s to even begin to engage. I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American on my father’s side. My mother’s side is a mixture of African slaves, European slave owners and Native Americans. Am I no longer allowed to play a slave because only one of my parents’ ancestors was on the boat over here 400 years ago? Trust that European colonialists left no stone unturned in this world (esp. in Nigeria), so we‘re damned if we do, etc.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

Goran & MJ & Evangelina & Hun -- oh it's just about nationality? Silly. Actors HAVE TO be able to play things beyond themselves. That's the nature of the craft. British actors have often had much better training than American actors so sometimes they're much better suited for American roles than Americans are. And sometimes the reverse works out fine. I remember people were mad that Renee Zellweger got a popular British role but she did great with Bridget Jones. And of course the most iconic southern belle in cinematic history was not southern at all but British.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Come through with the factual tea, Nathaniel!

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

@Nathaniel

No, the controversy about Cynthia Erivo's casting wasn't just about nationality. It was more so about disrespectful tweets Cynthia had made about African-Americans in the past, and some felt that someone who was disrespectful about African-Americans shouldn't get to play an African-American icon.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLily

Blanchett, Linklater, Bernadette - August (The Wife strategy, but BoxOfficeing more money)

Also, The Lucille Ball biopic has had that pesky (filming) next to it on IMDb for quite some time now. Makes you wonder.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Blanchett looks pretty stiff in the Bernadette trailer.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJF

If anyone would like to read a fairly well-rounded compendium of this controversy (w/ Erivo’s response), you can find it here: https://thegrapevine.theroot.com/cynthia-erivo-responds-to-backlash-over-harriet-tubman-1829112861

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

Who I would like to see nominated purely because I'd like to see these actresses with a nomination: Amy Adams, Cynthia Erivo, Kieira Knightley, Meryl Streep, Alfre Woodard; Annette Bening, Olivia Coleman, Ruth Negga, Margot Robbie, Tilda Swinton

And PLEASE - although I've certainly grown to embrace and admire Glenn Close's talent - I would much rather see MERYL STREEP do the movie of the musical SUNSET BLVD. She's truly got the face and the glamour to soar. One of Glenn Close's true strengths as an actress is that she looks and conveys an underlying normality. This is one reason her performance in FATAL ATTRACTIVE was so powerful - she started from normality - a woman anyone could meet. And her other quality that I think would hamper her success ON SCREEN in SUNSET BLVD is that Ms. Close is very cerebral. I think that's what hurt her performance in DANGEROUS LIAISONS for me. Yes, the Marquise is mentally brilliant and always calculating BUT she should also be a woman who exudes sensuality. I don't think Glenn Close does that.
(That's why Kathleen Turner would have been a brilliant Marquise!!) Norma Desmond is a passionate woman who was a star when everything was big and intense and powerful. In those qualities, I think Ms. Streep has more in her wheelhouse than Ms. Close.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

I think Meryl would have to pry Sunset Boulevard out of Glenn's cold, dead hands and rightfully so.

Oh my GOD Kathleen Turner would've been dynamite in Dangerous Liaisons. I love Glenn's performance but you're absolutely right. Sigh.

Now I'm fantasizing about her in Bull Durham, Baby Boom, Crimes of the Heart, Postcards from the Edge, A League of Their Own, Terms of Endearment...most of those feel sacrilegious to mess with but not if it's Turner. And I usually hate these counterfactuals.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

Yes Hayden! Turner would have been fantastic in BULL DURHAM. BABY BOOM is a very interesting idea - not as obvious as BULL DURHAM. CRIMES OF THE HEART I can see. Wow - which role in POSTCARDS? Cause Turner could do either. lol Yes - I think Kathleen Turner definitely was underutilized - and it surprises me cause she was in some hit movies so name recognition was there.

And yes, I understand Streep would have to pry the role out of Glenn's hands - and I honestly think Meryl wouldn't do it even it if was offered for that very reason - but God I think she could be magnificent in it. I want to see her on the big screen in all the amazing visual moments in that musical. But then I worship Streep - I only admire Close.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

The marquise in DL doesn't have to ooze typical Hollywood style sensuality. She can command sexual interest using her facade of power and danger. Once the facade is broken, we get one of the most brilliant wordless scenes in cinematic history. I consider that performance Close's very, very best, much much more interesting than Bening's interpretation.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

I don't know if I'm too optimist, but it can be the year ScarJo finally gets her Oscar nod (or a double nod??). Holocaust comedy/drama JOJO RABBIT and the leading role in Noah Baumbach's next movie?? Promising! Plus, AVENGERS: ENDGAME popularity won't hurt for sure.

#prayforScarJo

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEd

It is even more likely the Academy will stop making ceremonies than giving another black actress the leading Oscar. Maybe in 50+ years from now if it still exists.

February 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Bruno - I'm certainly not interested in typical Hollywood style sensuality in Dangerous Liaisons and I suspect neither is Hayden. Seeing the power and danger facade broken for a woman who IS actually passionate and sensual is, in fact, far more heart breaking than watching it happen to an ice queen. Besides, the combination of brilliance and passion Kathleen Turner could bring to the role - think BODY HEAT - combined with the elegant and more refined behaviors of aristocrats at that time - would have provided us with one of the most memorable and complex performances in film. Ms. Close was a bit too one-dimensional for my tastes. Her choices were a bit too obvious for me - clever, smart and cold danger at every moment. And, although Ms. Bening is also an excellent actress - she does not possess the intense heat of Ms. Turner which, in this instance, makes a very big difference.

February 8, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

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