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Best actress in a lead role Oscar hopefuls: What the scoreboard looks like

As the 93rd Academy Awards creeps in gently to name ‘who is who’ in film, credible online portals and prints have started weighing in on whose performance excited audience most. The road to the grand prize as best actress in a lead role is one of the most keenly contested categories on the award season front every year. Dominating the scores is two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand, who is back for the sixth time in the prediction race with ‘Nomadland’, the story of Fern (McDormand), a woman who, during the Great Recession, decides to live as a modern-day nomad.

McDormand’s inclusion into the Oscar hopefuls have been well cemented with 11 major wins from societies and associations that have named her best actress including the National Society of Film Critics. Her last win at the Oscars was in 2018, when she picked up the best actress tag for ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. If she is able to nab a win after her guaranteed nomination, McDormand will join the halls of the just five actors in Oscar history to have picked up three acting trophies: Ingrid Bergman, Walter Brennan, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

Shortlisted as a major threat to McDormand’s possible third Oscar is ‘Promising Young Woman’ star Carey Mulligan, who is also in the race for the second time since her last appearance in 2010 for ‘An Education’. Mulligan’s brilliant performance as Cassie, a medical school dropout living a double life at night has amassed her with four best actress wins against McDormand’s standing 11. In favour of her Hollywood takeover this season is the Columbus Film Critics Association, San Diego Film Critics Society, Music Critics Film Association and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Newcomer Sidney Flanigan is behind Mulligan with two victories from the New York Film Critics Circle and Boston Society of Film Critics, both for ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’. Alongside Streep (The Prom, Let Them All Talk), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), and Kate Winslet (Ammonite) Flanigan is enlisted in the major threat category from The Hollywood Reporter’s Feingberg Forecast Oscars race.

Considered a potential favourite once again after 56 years of Oscar hiatus, Sophia Loren’s Netflix starred in film ‘The Life Ahead’ has generated extra buzz for the Italian actress ahead of the upcoming season. Loren was submitted by the Capri, Hollywood Awards as the year’s best actress. The ceremony holds on record as one of the few outlets that predicts right in the acting categories.

Under the umbrella of best female performers of the year, Paula Beer (Undine) and Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth) have secured one apiece at the European Film Festival and Gotham Awards respectively.

Aside the mentioned winners from the selected societies, festivals and awards, Netflix’s leading ladies in recent original works Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Buttom) and Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) have placed runners-up on almost every committee and board that determines the final winners of these precursor events ahead of the big nights in Hollywood. The reduced attention given to their performances is similar to the reception many award season contenders face during this tensed period.

If data is anything to rely on, the submission from the various associations prior to the major ones is not a guarantee that the 2021 award season will take such a turn with nominations and winners. You can bet a Hollywood surprise, particularly in this time of uncertainties (we still remember Olivia Colman’s Oscar win over Glenn Close in 2019).

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