Awards season is officially upon us following December's announcement of the Golden Globe nominations. With that in mind, and with talk of the 2018 Academy Awards starting to ramp up, we thought we'd present our tips for the Best Actress category, ranking the candidates from most to least likely to win.
The movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Chances of winning the Oscar 90%
If critical adoration is anything to go by, Frances McDormand has this one in the bag. The actress electrifies as vengeful mother Mildred Hayes in Martin McDonagh's jet-black comedy-drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, playing a bereaved parent taking on her local police force after they fail to capture her daughter's murderer. The movie itself has received rave reviews and stands at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
"McDormand is righteous fury personified, and her performance-the best she's delivered since Fargo, maybe... Heartbreaking, but also wildly, profanely entertaining," writes A.A. Dowd in AV Club. And the plaudits don't stop there: McDormand is also the recipient of a Golden Globe nomination, which may curry favour with the Academy Awards voters.
The nature of McDormand's character plays into many present day conversations: Mildred is both victim and victimiser, refusing to play ball with the authorities who, she believes, have failed her. The Academy endeavours to stay relevant by acknowledging and rewarding topical performances (see the recent likes of Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Brie Larson in Room), so this may further boost McDormand's chances.
McDormand may also have time on her side: she won her first Oscar back in 1996 for the Coen brothers' classic Fargo and, in the 21 years since, she has only built upon her reputation as one of the finest character actors in cinema. Performances in the critically acclaimed likes of Almost Famous, The Man Who Wasn't There and Moonrise Kingdom bear this out. The Oscars love to recognise a veteran star who holds clout within the industry, so we wouldn't be surprised to see her holding the statuette aloft in March.
The movie Lady Bird
Chances of winning the Oscar 65%
The Academy may not skew in favour of Frances McDormand, instead favouring a brilliant young actress who has put in a series of impeccable performances over the last 10 years.
Step forward Saorise Ronan who, ever since her Oscar-nominated breakout in Joe Wright's Atonement, has rarely put a foot wrong. Embodying a variety of different characters and accents, from the titular child assassin in Hanna to a bloodsucking vampire in Byzantine and Irish emigrant Eilis in the award-garlanded Brooklyn, Ronan holds the kind of industry recognition that comes with being a fantastically dynamic performer.
By most accounts Ronan's latest performance is her best. As the eponymous Lady Bird in Greta Gerwig's feted directorial debut (it held a record-breaking 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes until recently), Ronan delivers another indelible portrayal of a person trying to find her place in the world. She plays a teenager at constant odds with her overbearing mother (Laurie Metcalf), whose acidic humour masks vulnerability and a desire to escape California to attend an east coast university.
Both the movie and Ronan's performance topped many a 'Best of 2017' list, and it's not out of the question for a young star to steal the limelight from under the nose of more seasoned veterans. (Trivia alert – 11-year-old Tatum O'Neal is the youngest-ever person to have won an Oscar: Best Supporting Actress for 1973's Paper Moon. Not bad when you consider the other winners that year included the likes of Jack Lemmon and Glenda Jackson.)
Think that Frances McDormand has got this sewn up? We'd say Ronan is her main source of competition.
The movie The Shape of Water
Chances of winning the Oscar 50%
Everyone loves to rag on the Oscars for continually overlooking fantasy and sci-fi cinema in favour of more 'worthy' subjects. This is undeniably true (in 2001, A Beautiful Mind grabbed Best Picture from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), so wouldn't it be great if the Academy could make amends in 2018?
Sally Hawkins' sublime performance in The Shape of Water would be an excellent place to start. The British actress, acclaimed for the likes of Happy-Go-Lucky and the Paddington films, is the beating heart of Guillermo del Toro's visually luscious new fantasy-drama, playing mute 1960s janitor Elisa who falls in love with a mysterious aquatic creature (played by Doug Jones).
By removing the necessity for dialogue, del Toro throws more emphasis onto Hawkins' expressiveness, and she responds brilliantly by conveying the essence of a lonely woman with a vibrant inner life. It's all in the subtlest of gestures, from a widening of the eyes to a corridor tap dance, proof positive that an actor doesn't need a rambling monologue to play on our heartstrings.
The physical nature of Hawkins' performance (and indeed the nature of the entire movie) also owes itself to a rich heritage of silent cinema, and we all know the Oscars adore any kind of movie acknowledging movie heritage (The Artist being a prime example). The critical plaudits that have greeted the movie itself, including seven Golden Globe nominations, can't hurt her chances (she's been nominated herself), but genre snobbery may well dictate the end result. Consider her the dark horse in this particular race.
The movie I, Tonya
Chances of winning the Oscar 40%
In a less-crowded field, Margot Robbie may well have pirouetted away with this one. However it may well be that the competition this year is so fiercely strong, she may end up losing out.
It won't be on the merit of her performance, though. Critics have lined up to shower praise on the Wolf of Wall Street actress for her complex and spiky turn as disgraced former figure skater, Tonya Harding, whose legacy was forever tarnished when she was associated with a vicious attack on fellow skater, Nancy Kerrigan.
The name Tonya Harding might not mean that much on UK shores but the story is an astonishing one, and critics agree that Robbie, in conjunction with director Craig Gillespie, more than does justice to its seedy undercurrents of greed and jealousy. "Robbie delivers a performance that is breathtaking to behold, almost to the point of exhaustion," raves Peter Howell in Toronto Star, and his verdict is echoed by many other top critics.
Writers Ty Burr in The Boston Globe: "Robbie is taller, bigger than the tiny, fierce Harding, but she gets the athlete's forward drive, and the anger that seemed to fuel the dynamo, and when life hands Tonya lemons, Robbie sets her jaw and bears down." And in Variety, Owen Gleiberman describes Robbie's turn as a "canny, live-wire, deeply sympathetic performance."
Add to all this praise a Golden Globe nomination and Robbie certainly has enough on her side to win the award. But will the real-life character she's playing prove too edgy and difficult for the character to stomach? Hey, if Frances McDormand is in with a chance, then don't rule it out.
The movie The Post
Chances of winning the Oscar 25%
It may seem odd but being the most awards-feted actress of the modern age may count against Meryl Streep in this year's race. After all, what more does she have to prove, and what more do the Academy have to prove in gifting her another Oscar?
Like Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, that's not to denigrate her performance in Steven Spielberg's The Post. After all, the words 'bad performance' and 'Meryl Streep' rarely, if ever, go cap in hand. By most accounts Streep delivers yet another extraordinary real-life portrayal, bringing to life Washington Post owner Kay Graham who must comprehend going to war with the American goverment over the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, incriminating documents detailing lies about the Vietnam war.
Streep's role is a progressive and topical one: in Spielberg's movie Kay is depicted as a lone female voice in a chauvinist, male-dominated environment, and as we've already mentioned timeliness and topicality is something that always gets the attention of Oscar voters.
Nevertheless she's been nominated 17 times before and already has three Oscars to her name (most recently for transforming into Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady), so this year it may be more seemly to give a rising star the industry boost they need.
Who do you think will win the Best Actress Oscar this year? Tweet us your hot tips @Cineworld.