Friday, January 22, 2021

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 2019

The Contenders:

Charlize Theron: Bombshell
Cynthia Erivo: Harriet
Renee Zellweger: Judy (winner)
Saoirse Ronan: Little Women
Scarlett Johansson: Marriage Story

What’s Missing

When it comes to Best Actress for 2019, I’m almost certainly missing a lot of films that belong here. I imagine that when it comes to snubs, a lot of people are going to bring up Booksmart and both Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. I disliked Booksmart, though, so I’m not going to include them here. I’m tempted to include Ana de Armas, but Knives Out is an ensemble, which makes her a tougher sell. The same is true of Park so-dam and Parasite. Oscar’s biases take care of a lot of the other snubs. The anti-superhero bias keeps Brie Larson and Captain Marvel out of the options. Oscars anti-horror bias (and the possibility that they are more supporting roles) keeps both Kyliegh Curran and Rebecca Fergusson out for Doctor Sleep, Florence Pugh for Midsommar, and Haley Bennett for the horror-adjacent Swallow. Lupita Nyong’o’s work in Us falls at the crossroads of Oscar’s horror bias and racism problem (and she’s the biggest snub in my opinion). Finally, in what I think is the second-biggest snub, Oscar’s race issue also likely kept Awkwafina and The Farewell out of the running.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I’ve never been shy about appreciating Charlize Theron, but there’s no reason she belongs on the stage with the other nominees. Bombshell isn’t that good of a movie, and while Theron is generally always worth watching in whatever she does, in Bombshell she’s playing an unpleasant real-world person in an unpleasant movie about equally unpleasant people. When the snubs include Awkwafina’s heartfelt work and Lupita Nyong’o’s excellent double role, Charlize being on the list is simply wrong.

4. Similarly I tend to like Scarlett Johansson, but as mentioned last week, I am not a fan of Marriage Story. I dislike all of the characters and most of the performances. Johansson had a really good year—she was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit, and she deserved every bit of that nomination. That’s where she should have been for 2019 and not on the list for this performance or this movie. I’m not sure she’d make my top 10, and she certainly wouldn’t make my top five.

3. Cynthia Erivo is a more difficult choice for me, because I’m not really sure what I think. Erivo herself is very good, but the movie has so many problems that I find it hard to judge her in it. The biggest problem with Harriet is that the filmmakers decided that Harriet Tubman should be an action hero. The real Tubman’s story is good enough and didn’t need to be sexied up the way this film wanted. Erivo is fine; she’s far better than the movie, but that’s not saying a lot, and I probably wouldn’t want her in the list.

2. I’ve said before that I’ll probably watch anything Greta Gerwig directs until one of us is dead. I also probably watch anything that Saoirse Ronan is in as well. Little Women is not a movie I loved, though, mainly because I don’t love the source material that much. Ronan is almost certainly going to have multiple Oscars in her career, and she’s probably already earned one or two at this point. However, not for this. I like Ronan’s work and she’d probably make my list of nominations, but she’s not winning.

My Choice

1. If you go through past reviews on this site of movies that have involved Renee Zellweger, you’re not going to find a huge amount of praise. I’ve not been a big fan of hers and I’ve not been a huge supporter of her presence in films in general. However, she is absolutely brilliant in Judy. In fact, she’s the only thing worth seeing in it—she takes a misdirected and misfocused movie, puts the whole thing on her back, and by herself makes it worth seeing. With a better nomination class—Nyong’o, Awkwafina, and a few others we might have a different conversation, but she’s absolutely the class of this group and an easy winner.

Final Analysis


  1. I've only seen 2 of the five Oscar nominees yet I'm still enthralled by A Hidden Life and would've vouched for Valerie Pachner in that film. I would've also vouched for Lupita Nyong'o for Us, Charlize Theron for Long Shot, and Samara Weaving for Ready or Not.

    1. Ready or Not and A Hidden Life are already on my catch-up list. I'm adding Long Shot.

      If you haven't seen The Farewell, I recommend it strongly.

  2. So far I've only Harriet and Marriage Story so far. I agree with you on both of those movies/performances. I saw most of your other mentions. I think Feldstein was far better than Dever in Booksmart, but I find her supporting. Same for Curran and Ferguson in Doctor Sleep. Yeah, the ladies from Parasite and Knives Out are caught up ensemble pieces, not true leads. I tried to watch The Farewell, but it was a late-night start so I fell asleep. I'm going to try to rewatch it this weekend. I'm a big of what Pugh did in Midsommar so she'd probably get a nod from me.

    I'm a huge superhero movie guy, but no way I'd nom Brie Larson for Captain Marvel. It's not a douchey fan-boy thing. I just think there wasn't enough warmth in her performance to really get me as a viewer on her side. A lot of it is the fault of the writers and the type of character they were trying to create, not hers, but it makes her come across cold and aloof and the movie itself is middling.

    I'm so with you on Nyong'o as the biggest snub. In fact, she'd be my winner (reminder: I haven't seen Judy. yet). I'm also with you on Haley Bennett from Swallow.

    Others I liked:
    Samara Weaving in Ready or Not
    Noemie Merlant in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    1. If Lupita Nyong'o had been nominated, she'd be below the fold. Zellweger would likely be my winner still (she really is that good), but I wouldn't object to anyone wanting to hand the statue to Nyong'o. In my head, there's not a hair between them, and the blog's position is always that ties go to the Academy.

      I tend to agree with you on Larson and Captain Marvel. It's a role that I wouldn't nominate, but that I thought would get more traction. I thought the same about Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman and about Hugh Jackman and Logan. Admittedly, though, both Gadot and Jackman can make better cases for being nominated.