Joanna, our resident Natalie Portman apologist, is backing Portman in the Best Actress Oscar race, which is actually competitive this year. Portman is campaigning for Jackie—the last time Portman campaigned, for Black Swan, I was so turned off I started calling her “Natalie Never”— Pablo Larrain’s biopic of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the days following JFK’s assassination. Joanna reviewed Jackie at TIFF and she’s right that it’s a balls-out bravura performance from Portman. I’m not even a Portman fan, and I think she should get a nomination for this work. It’s stellar.
A full trailer for Jackie has been released, so you can get a glimpse of Portman’s work, especially that accent that doesn’t really sound like Jackie at all, but yet somehow embodies the Otherness of Jackie and the world of the Kennedys. (The movie is basically like if the Kennedys were from outer space.) And it’s hard to argue against Portman here—in any other year, she’d be a STRONG contender for Best Actress. Even condensed into trailer form you can feel the power of her performance.
But this is a tough year, and Natalie Never has a big strike against her in this year’s race—she already has an Oscar. The Academy is stingy with seconds, and they’re getting stingier. The recent double winners are limited to Hilary Swank (five years between Oscars), and Cate Blanchett (nine years). It’s not impossible, but over the last decade or so, as ratings have declined, The Narrative has become paramount to Oscar season. What is The Narrative going into Oscar night? Last year it was Leo and his struggle award.
The Narrative this year does not belong to Portman, however great her performance may be. The Narrative this year is Emma Stone, the wide-eyed ingénue that literally everyone likes, going up against Annette Bening, the Icon and the long-overdue actor with four nominations spanning twenty years—and one of those nominations came up against eventual winner Natalie Never. In fact, over the last decade, the Best Actress Oscar has gone exclusively to Icons (Moore, Blanchett, Streep, Bullock, Winslet, Mirren), and Ingénues (Larson, Lawrence, Portman, Cotillard). Notice anything about those lists? It favors Icons 60/40.
Portman is very good in Jackie, and I highly recommend the movie—it’s a trip. She’s a frontrunner for a nomination for sure, and she’s already campaigning. (Natalie Never: The Return.) And it’s early and I don’t want to count her out, especially as we know already how hard she can hustle on the campaign circuit, but at the same time, to me at least, it doesn’t feel like her year.
Attached - Natalie at the AFI Fest screening of Jackie in LA last night.