Oscar Predictions: Eyes on Jessica Chastain

When I wrote my Oscar Predictions post for The Eyes of Tammy Faye back in September and talked about Jessica Chastain’s viability in Best Actress, I penned the following passage:

Bottom line: a couple of weeks back, I boldly declared that you could write Kristen Stewart’s Best Actress inclusion in pen. Here we go again for the second pronouncement… I think you can do the same with Chastain.

Two months later, I still feel the same about Kristen Stewart in Spencer. She remains the frontrunner for a nomination and a potential victory. And a solid argument can still be made that Chastain’s performance as Tammy Faye Bakker sits in the runner-up position for inclusion for the five actresses who will be up for consideration. That said, I’m not as declarative as I once was. Given a redo, I might say a sharpened pencil over a pen.

Why? The Best Actress race is stacked in 2021 and more realistic competitors continue to pop up. Just this week, there were three pictures screened that increased or helped solidify the chances for their leading ladies: Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), and Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza). That’s in addition to Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter), Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), and Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth). They’ve been in the mix since festival season early this autumn.

That’s eight performances thus far. We can add others to the already released fold: Jodie Comer (The Last Duel), Jennifer Hudson (Respect), Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World), and Tessa Thompson (Passing). 12. I can think of four more from the unscreened column: Sandra Bullock (The Unforgivable), Jennifer Lawrence (Don’t Look Up), Rooney Mara (Nightmare Alley) and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story). 16. I’m not really feeling a Bullock nod, but any of the others could bubble up.

Add to that the off chance that a surprise nominee could materialize of those I’ve basically written off: Halle Berry (Bruised), Marion Cotillard (Annette), Emilia Jones (CODA), or Charlotte Rampling (Benedetta).

20 possibilities (though some admittedly are far fetched). Still – there’s several realistic hopefuls and that’s reason enough to doubt anyone but Stewart making the eventual quintet.

Chastain faces other challenges for her third nomination (the previous two were supporting for 2011’s The Help and lead the following year in Zero Dark Thirty). Despite widespread acclaim for her acting, audiences completely tuned out to Tammy. It earned a tiny $2.4 million at the box office. Reviews for the pic itself were just so-so (66% on Rotten Tomatoes). I’ve heard comparisons made to Renee Zellweger’s victory in 2019 for Judy as far as poor box office and critical reaction. It’s not a totally unfair comp but Zellweger’s winning work garnered 82% on RT and made $24 million domestically.

When Tammy screened up north, the idea of Chastain and her costar Andrew Garfield (in Supporting Actor) both being up seemed feasible. I don’t feel Garfield has much of a shot now (though he definitely does in lead for Tick, Tick… Boom!).

Bottom line: I still have Chastain in my five, but with considerably less assuredness than before.

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