Back at it again with my look back at major Oscar races from 1990 to the present! We’ve arrived at Best Actress. If you missed my previous posts covering the Supporting performers, you can find them here:
As I did with those posts, I’m selecting my top 3 least surprising winners and top 3 upsets. I’m also giving you my personal pick for strongest and weakest fields from the past 28 years.
For starters, here’s the list of winners from 1990 to now:
1990 – Kathy Bates, Misery
1991 – Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
1992 – Emma Thompson, Howards End
1993 – Holly Hunter, The Piano
1994 – Jessica Lange, Blue Sky
1995 – Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
1996 – Frances McDormand, Fargo
1997 – Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets
1998 – Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love
1999 – Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry
2000 – Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
2001 – Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball
2002 – Nicole Kidman, The Hours
2003 – Charlize Theron, Monster
2004 – Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
2005 – Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
2006 – Helen Mirren, The Queen
2007 – Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
2008 – Kate Winslet, The Reader
2009 – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
2010 – Natalie Portman, Black Swan
2011 – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
2012 – Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
2013 – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2014 – Julianne Moore, Still Alice
2015 – Brie Larson, Room
2016 – Emma Stone, La La Land
2017 – Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
When it comes to Best Actress, I must say it’s probably the race with the least amount of genuine upsets. Nearly every year, there’s a pretty strong front-runner and they win – even more so than in Actor and the Supporting players. Of many non-surprises, here’s my top ones:
3. Holly Hunter, The Piano
Hunter’s work as a mute piano player in Jane Campion’s period piece was the clear favorite over significant competition that included Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do With It? and the previous year’s winner Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day.
2. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
One of Hollywood’s biggest stars had already received nods for Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman and there was little question that Brockovich would earn Roberts her first and only (so far) trip to the Oscar stage.
1. Charlize Theron, Monster
Theron’s metamorphosis into serial killer Aileen Wuornos swept all precursors. The rest of the field was also fairly weak that year, making her the obvious victor.
And now the “upsets”…
3. Kate Winslet, The Reader
While not a surprise when she won Oscar night, the multi-nominated Winslet was expected for much of the year to get a nod for Revolutionary Road instead. Yet it was this Stephen Daldry drama that was selected instead.
2. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
This was a two-way contest between Cotillard and veteran Julie Christie for Away from Her, with many believing the latter had the edge. It didn’t turn out that way.
1. Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry and Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
This #1 comes with a caveat. It wasn’t much of an upset by the time Swank won her double Oscars. What’s interesting here is that she single-handedly denied two prime opportunities for the winless Annette Bening to get a statue for American Beauty and Being Julia.
We move to the fields. For weakest field, I’m selecting 1994 when Jessica Lange won for the little-seen Blue Sky. Other nominees were Jodie Foster in Nell, Miranda Richardson in Tom&Viv, Winona Ryder for Little Women, and Susan Sarandon in The Client.
Strongest group in my opinion goes to 2010 with Natalie Portman’s victorious role in Black Swan. The rest of that impressive field is Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence’s first nomination in Winter’s Bone, and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).
Best Actor is next, folks! Stay tuned…