When I did my first ranked Oscar predictions in the Best Actress race on August 27, 2020 – I had Jennifer Hudson’s portrayal of Aretha Franklin in Respect ranked fifth. The biopic ended up getting delayed due to COVID. Now it’s out on Friday (August 13). My initial two weeks of Academy rankings for 2021 has had Hudson pegged in fourth while not including the film itself in the 25 possibilities for Best Picture.
The review embargo lifted this evening and… well, I might be onto something. The prevalent theory has been that Respect could be a one race player in the major categories. This is similar to what we saw two years ago when Renee Zellweger took Best Actress as Judy Garland in Judy and last year when Andra Day was nominated for The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Early critical reaction is mixed though Hudson is being widely praised. It was 15 years ago that the former American Idol singer won gold in Supporting Actress for her show stopping work in Dreamgirls. She hasn’t been on the Academy’s radar since. Respect, as anticipated, could easily change that. Nothing in the write-ups indicates this will a Picture hopeful. Same goes for the supporting cast. I have had Audra McDonald in the lower rungs of possibilities in supporting for the past two weeks. Don’t expect to see her name when I update my forecast on Thursday.
Costume Design is another possibility, but don’t be surprised at all to see Hudson as the lone representation here. And that’s far from guaranteed. There’s a lot of leading performances yet to be seen that could contend: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Jodie Comer (The Last Duel), Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog), Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Kristen Stewart (Spencer), and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) are just some. Emilia Jones (CODA) and Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World) represent two turns already seen that could find themselves in the mix.
Bottom line: Hudson is absolutely more than just a little bit of a factor in this race, but we have to see what transpires over festival season and the rest of the year. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…