Will voters who secretly agree with the eternally crusty Charlotte Rampling’s tempest-in-a-teapot comments about the purported reverse racism of #OscarsSoWhite feel like tempting fate this year? Will those who don’t even care one way or the other about her performance throw her a secret vote in solidarity? She quickly recanted her comments, saying she was misinterpreted, but this is one year no genies will easily go back into their bottles. It doesn’t matter matter how great her performance may be in Andrew Haigh’s patient 45 Years. Her impatient retraction, made as Academy members are publicly sighing their collective exasperation over being called out, simply felt unconvincing. Rampling’s firm, tony demeanor on and off screen, compounded by almost exclusively highbrow critics’ enthusiasm in her favor, was probably never going to move the needle much for an AMPAS still struggling to reassure the public they’re in touch with the times. But sticking to her guns may have given the longshot her best chance.
For at least a little while, certainly longer than usual in these blogger-fueled times of the tortoise (Oscar) vs. the hare (all precursors), it seemed like this would be a reasonably competitive race between Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, and Cate Blanchett, whose movie actually has more nominations overall. Blanchett isn’t facing off against the co-star who actually has more screen time and nonetheless got demoted to supporting actress, but Carol missed out on that crucial best picture nomination, leading to the perception that its momentum has completely evaporated. (Apparently enthusiasm is only measured in one category.) Similarly, there isn’t a lot of attention on Brooklyn, but anyone who’s watched Ronan’s richly nuanced work will find it impossible to deny how the very fabric of the entire movie is woven through her actions and reactions, her unmistakable arc of personal growth.
Uncharitably, you could argue Ronan’s performance is the embodiment of the sort of presumed exceptionalism Oscar voters ought to be having second thoughts about right now. No such problems haunt the showy work of Brie Larson, who in Room fights back tooth and claw from the brink just as much as the frontrunner in best actor. Even though she hasn’t been parading a freshly pulled tooth on the red-carpet circuit as conspicuously as Leonardo DiCaprio has been belching up fresh buffalo liver fumes within a mile radius of anyone who has a microphone, Larson’s impending win is all rolled up.
Will Win: Brie Larson, Room
Could Win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn