Oscar voting closes Tuesday, so it's time to finalize your Oscar predictions before Sunday's big show. La La Land, which leads the field with a record-tying 14 nominations, is poised to dominate (it won't win all 14 since it's double-nominated in Best Original Song), and one of its key wins should come in Best Actress. What was expected to be a two-person duel early on between Emma Stone and Natalie Portman has welcomed a late surging challenger. Let's break down the race.
And the nominees are...
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone,La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
With all due respect to Negga and her powerfully subtle work, this is a total "It's an honor to be nominated" moment for her. Loving never got the traction it deserved this season and her nomination -- the film's sole nod -- was a total but welcome surprise, as she displaced Arrival's Amy Adams, who had hit every precursor. It's not impossible to win as your movie's only nomination -- in fact, it's quite common in Best Actress (see: Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Charlize Theron in Monster), which tells you all you need to know about the industry -- but you typically need to be the undeniable frontrunner, which Negga is unfortunately not.
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Streep will have her supporters, but she's going to take her 17th L to her three Ws. She knows it, we know it, and it's fine. She's great as usual in FloFoJen, but she truly secured this nod after her impassioned Golden Globes speech, which was right in the middle of nomination voting, over some arguably more deserving nominees (cough, Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, cough). Plus, she just finally won her third trophy five years ago; a fourth -- which would tie her with Katharine Hepburn's all-time record -- isn't coming so soon.
At one point -- aka after Jackie premiered to raves at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, respectively, in September -- the statuette had Portman's name half-engraved on it. It's a transfixing portrait of the former first lady in the days after JFK's assassination -- and Oscar loves when you play real people -- but the heat slowly subsided off the drama, whose elliptical style proved to be polarizing, and Portman, who won six years ago for Black Swan, lost a lot of critical ground to Huppert. Her biggest blow came when Huppert upset her for the drama Globe just while Stone's stock was rising. This race is reminiscent of the Best Actress battle four years ago, when Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) appeared to be an early favorite only to fade in the stretch to Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour).
Huppert is the Riva, who sadly died last month, this year: a French icon giving a career-best performance in a foreign-language film with massive critical backing. The problem for her is that her film's subject matter -- a rape revenge tale -- makes it a hard sell for voters to watch. She also missed a SAG nod and was not eligible at BAFTA, where she likely would've prevailed just like Riva did. But Huppert, who'd join Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) as the only people to win for French-speaking roles, has been working the campaign trail hard -- she even smartly presented at the BAFTAs to make sure she wasn't out of sight, out of mind -- and Stone has yet to beat her head-to-head at a major precursor; the only time they were nominated together was at Critics' Choice, which Portman won.
Still, this is Stone's to lose -- and she won't. She's the J.Law this year: a charming ingénue with a charming performance whom everyone loves. Stone, who won the comedy/musical Globe, SAG and BAFTA, has a previous nod under her belt already (Birdman two years ago), is in the undeniable Best Picture frontrunner, and at 28, she's also the perfect age -- the average age of Best Actress winners is 29 (by comparison, Adrien Brody is the youngest Best Actor winner at 29) -- for this coronation. If La La Land and Stone win as expected, it'd be the first time in 12 years and just the 12th time overall that Best Picture and Best Actress went to the same film (this has happened 27 times with Best Actor; of these, three times has a movie won picture and the lead categories).
Will win: Emma Stone
Watch out for: Isabelle Huppert
The 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.