The other contenders
The buzz from the early fall festivals offered only one major competitor for Zellweger: Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story. Johansson is wonderful as one half of a couple going through a painful divorce in Noah Baumbach's film. In an early scene, she gives an unbroken monologue in which she describes her disillusionment with her husband that is wrecking and unadorned. But there are a few things working against her: One is her co-star Adam Driver, who starts dominating the story in the latter half of the film. He currently seems like the Best Actor winner, though it's a much tighter race. The second is her history of controversial comments, including her recent statement that she loves Woody Allen: "I believe him, and I would work with him anytime," she told The Hollywood Reporter. Another potential contender is Tony, Grammy, and Emmy winner Cynthia Erivo, who plays Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet, though a mild reception for the film out of Toronto may hurt her chances.
It would be great if the Academy didn't forget about Lupita Nyong'o's haunting dual performance in Us or Awkwafina's understated appearance as a granddaughter coming to terms with mortality and her culture in The Farewell, both of which are films from earlier in the year year. The Farewell debuted back at Sundance along with Clemency, a drama starring Alfre Woodard, which could net the veteran actress her first nomination since the '80s. In Clemency, Woodard plays a prison warden and has earned raves.
But there are two movies yet to be seen that could completely shake up the race. The first is Little Women, in which Oscar favorite Saoirse Ronan takes on Louisa May Alcott's heroine Jo March, a role that Winona Ryder earned a nomination for in 1995. And then there's Bombshell, a retelling of the takedown of Roger Ailes at Fox News focused on the women who exposed his harassment, specifically Megyn Kelly, played here by Charlize Theron. The teaser showed Theron's uncanny transformation into the TV host. If the Academy isn't put off by Kelly's personal casual racism -- and Bombshell is actually good -- Theron could be a shoo-in.