Thursday, December 7, 2023

How Lily Gladstone’s Oscar Campaign For Best Actress Shakes Up The Awards Race

As per an exclusive story from Variety last night, one of the biggest shakeups to hit this year’s awards season has occurred. Lily Gladstone will now officially campaign in Best Actress instead of Best Supporting Actress for her critically acclaimed performance in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers Of The Flower Moon.” The film, which premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews, is soon to be released worldwide on October 20th on both regular and IMAX screens.

Initially, the expectation was Gladstone would be campaigning for Best Supporting Actress, and that’s where most Oscar pundits, including us, had her listed. There was always the possibility she could be placed in the lead category, given the prominent nature of the character within the film’s narrative of focusing on the Osage people. Still, many felt she would be overshadowed by her white male co-stars, Leonardo DiCaprio (who, to no one’s surprise, is campaigning for Best Actor) and Robert De Niro (who will be campaigning in Best Supporting Actor). Now, after Scorsese realized his story was all about the white characters and he re-wrote the script to focus on the Osage people, Gladstone will be the face of this narrative in the leading category. From an awards standpoint, this is a big change for both actress categories and could potentially alter the Best Picture race. Let’s look at some of the possibilities that could come out of this campaign decision from Apple…

Gladstone was considered by many to be the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress. Especially with Scorsese’s track record of getting his actors nominated for his projects, it was beginning to look like a successful campaign for Gladstone to steamroll her way through the entire awards season. Comparisons have already been made to Michelle Williams last year for “The Fabelmans” when Universal Pictures moved the presumed Best Supporting Actress frontrunner to Best Actress. She eventually received the nomination but did not win the Oscar, a strategic move that still gets discussed today. Although the same move, it’s completely different as Williams was already a multiple Academy Award-nominated actress compared to Gladstone, who is looking to earn her first nomination and whose role is arguably more prominent and could be argued as being a co-lead alongside DiCaprio.

With Gladstone out of Best Supporting Actress, anyone can be declared the new frontrunner. This is supremely beneficial for Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her raved-about performance in Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers.” It’s possible one or both of the supporting ladies from “The Color Purple” (Taraji P. Henson and Danielle Brooks) can come in and make a splash late in the season. Taraji P. Henson is a former Oscar nominee for her performance in “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button,” maybe it’s time she finally received her due after many years of stellar work in both film and television. Then again, many feel Brooks could astonish with her showstopping role as Sofia, who is said to have a jaw-dropping musical number in the film that will wow Academy others. Another former nominee and winner who benefits from this move is Penelope Cruz for “Ferrari.” Cruz has been highlighted as one of the best aspects of that film, and she’s managed to make her way toward earning another nomination. Gladstone’s move also opens the doors for Emily Blunt to finally land her first Academy Award nomination for “Oppenheimer,” which would increase its overall nomination tally and help further propel it toward a possible Best Picture win.

Gladstone will now be competing in an already overcrowded Best Actress field. She has potentially sacrificed what many deemed a guaranteed win for what would be just a nomination. But Gladstone and Apple have other thoughts on their mind. Her nomination would be the first for a Native American woman in the category. Given the film’s focus on the Osage people, it could give her the narrative to make history and win the category altogether. The expected industry love for “Killers Of The Flower Moon” should keep her in the conversation throughout the season. She will be going against various contenders such as the heavy frontrunner at the moment, Emma Stone (“Poor Things“), international darling Sandra Huller (“Anatomy Of A Fall“), the overdue Carey Mulligan (“Maestro“), the even more overdue Annette Benning (“Nyad“), the sight unseen but presumably fantastic Fantasia Barino (“The Color Purple“), the breakout newcomer Caliee Spaeny (“Priscilla“) and the beloved Greta Lee (“Past Lives“). Gladstone will likely receive the nomination no matter which category she ends up in. Her performance, character, and the Oscar narrative surrounding her nomination are too big for the Academy to ignore. Now, it’s just a question of who she kicks out in Best Actress. Unfortunately, this really hurts someone like Greta Lee, who’s also looking for her first Academy Award nomination and could possibly hamper “Past Lives‘” overall Best Picture chances with one less nomination. Caliee Spaeny for “Priscilla” is another contender that this could hurt, as more well-known names keep popping up in the conversation with Best Picture heat tied to them. 

The question of whether Gladstone’s move to Best Actress could help or hurt “Killers Of The Flower Moon’s” chances of winning Best Picture is still very much up in the air. Many were starting to feel Gladstone would be a lone winner for the film in Supporting, and the same may also be true of the Lead category. If she dominates the precursors and a win for her in the category appears to be inevitable, it’s possible that momentum could carry the film towards other wins in the crafts, Best Adapted Screenplay and possibly Best Picture. However, if the race to win Best Actress is a struggle for Gladstone and a win appears uncertain, all of “Killers Of The Flower Moon’s” hopes of an Oscar win elsewhere would rest on her shoulders. Without that “locked” Gladstone win, Scorsese could potentially have another film earn double-digit nominations and still go home with nothing, just as “The Irishman” did in 2019. Regardless, at this point in the season, the path toward an Oscar nomination looks good for Gladstone, as she will continue to be talked about all season long for her fantastic performance and carrying the torch for Native American representation at the Academy Awards.

What are your thoughts on Lily Gladstone competing in Best Actress for “Killers Of The Flower Moon?” Do you think she stands a strong chance to win? Who do you think is now winning Best Supporting Actress? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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