Welcome to Oscar season! Before we embark on our annual long journey, let us pause to give thanks that 2017 — a real doozy of a year for ladykind (to put it gently) — boasts a plethora of fantastic female performances on the big screen. Better still, this holds true for both the lead-and-supporting actress categories.
Here’s who could follow Viola Davis’ Oscars 2017 win for best supporting actress:
Motherhood and maternal impulses are the thread woven throughout our top contenders, but the range of matriarchs is as diverse as the films we find them in. Laurie Metcalf’s Marion in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird (opening Nov. 3) is described by another character as “warm, but she’s also kind of scary.” This is not wrong. But Marion’s endless exasperated worrying over her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) — who is practically vibrating with the desire to flee the familial nest — will surely strike familiar and sympathetic chords. Ditto Holly Hunter as Beth in this summer’s The Big Sick, tearing up a hospital and anything or anyone in her way for the sake of her comatose daughter (Zoe Kazan) in a fierce mother-bear fashion not seen since Terms of Endearment. Mary J. Blige has been astonishing audiences since the Sundance Film Festival, playing the stoic and strong Florence in Dee Rees’ epic period piece Mudbound (out Nov. 17). (She’s already off to an early awards start: The Gotham Awards nominated her for Breakthrough Actor.) Octavia Spencer may not technically play a mother in The Shape of Water(opening Dec. 8), but she’s certainly the de facto caretaker to a group of romantic misfits — which includes a kind of merman — and her warmth and loyalty are undeniable.
But then there’s the other side of the spectrum. Take the innately likable Allison Janney, who will make your jaw drop and your blood run cold as Tonya Harding’s dead-eyed and compassion-free mother, LaVona, in December’s I, Tonya. (If you are looking for a C.J. Cregg fix, keep moving.) As the Reverend Mother in Novitiate (out Friday in limited release), Melissa Leo gives the kind of steely, sinister performance that the Academy tends to reward (see: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash). And September’s mother! may have been hamstrung by notoriety, but Michelle Pfeiffer made a triumphant return to the big screen after a four-year hiatus, making slinky mischief look devilishly good.
Plus there are those oh-so-enticing performances no one has seen yet: Lesley Manville in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (out Dec. 25); both Sarah Paulson and Carrie Coon in Steven Spielberg’s The Post (out Dec. 22); and Michelle Williams in The Greatest Showman (out Dec. 25). Not to be greedy among all these riches, but if we could be granted just one last wish: Please, Oscar voters, do not forget Allison Williams’ incredible turn in last winter’s Get Out. You should get in on that.