by Nathaniel R
Are you biting your nails yet? No prediction for this year's Best Actress shortlist can come without some degree of "I could be getting this very wrong!" nerves. We've been Oscar watching for a long time and it's genuinely never looked this open this late in the game (with the possible exception of 2003 but for nearly the opposite reason). If Best Actress is not a five-way lock up by now (and it often is) it's usually at least settled but for a minor battle between two women for the "just happy to be nominated" fifth spot. This year is different. Seven women remain strong and precursor supported and virtually any combination of five names seems possible as long as you include both Emma Stone (with the reliable boost of leading a Best Picture frontrunner) and Natalie Portman (with the reliable boost of Oscar's deep-deep love for mimicry).
We always believed that Isabelle Huppert was a genuine threat for a Best Actress nomination this season for her phenomenal star turn in Elle. It wasn't so much that Elle, in which she plays a video game enterpeneur who becomes obsessed with her rapist, was a a fresh look at an old star (against type) or right in Oscar's wheel house (a dark comedy about rape. LOL, no). The appeal instead is that in Elle is a suffusion of everything that's special about Huppert: her superior intellect, fascinating opacity, tortured psychology, and her daring sexuality. Oscar would be wise to pounce in a year where the media has been this celebratory about her unique place in the cinematic landscape. 'It's time!' feelings don't generally come around all that often for true iconoclasts or women of a certain age. She's both so they must act now.
Here's another far more superficial but still excellent reason why Isabelle Huppert needs to be nominated...