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.
But there are two movies with late release dates that could 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. Ronan makes the part her own though and could add a fourth nomination to her haul. (FYI: She's only 25.) A potential pitfall for Ronan is that the likes of the Golden Globes and the SAGs have been muted in their response to Little Women. Ronan scored a Globe nod, but not one in SAG. 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. With the aid of some makeup, Theron's transformation into Kelly is uncanny. If the Academy isn't put off by Kelly's personal casual racism, Theron could be a shoo-in.
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. Nyong'o won the New York Film Critics Circle prize, and is up for a SAG Award. 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. Meanwhile, Tony, Grammy, and Emmy winner Cynthia Erivo, who plays Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet, is looking more like a lock with Golden Globe and SAG nominations.