The Best Actress Oscar race has been an assumed contest between two frontrunners: Nicole Kidman and Kristen Stewart. Well, last night Jessica Chastain busted into that race like the Kool-Aid man entering your house, and now the Best Actress race is suddenly a bit topsy-turvy. It’s not like anyone has been ignoring Chastain and The Eyes of Tammy Faye this awards season—she’s an Oscar nominee, for Christ’s sake—but the momentum hasn’t been on Chastain’s side until last night, when her fellow actors came through for her. And the momentum still might not be wholly on her side, because Penelope Cruz, who was not at the SAG Awards, is the dark horse in that category, and Chastain pulling votes from Kidman and/or Stewart might open the door for Cruz. (If it did, it would be her second win, following a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.)
We have a race! It’s always more exciting when the big categories are wide open, and while Best Actress remains tilted in favor of Kidman and Stewart, the actors’ branch is the biggest in the category. If that branch is pulling in another direction, it opens up myriad possibilities, and we, the audience, cannot lose because this is a very likeable bunch of actresses. Would you complain about any of these women winning? I don’t love Kidman’s performance as Lucille Ball, and Chastain has done better work before, but I like both Kidman and Chastain as actors. Plus, the Academy LOVES actors who play real people, and they LOVE prosthetics and big transformations, so Kidman and Chastain are punching a lot of the right buttons.
If the “vote for the most performance, not the best performance” crowd is splitting between Chastain and Kidman, though, that’s where Cruz can creep in. There’s a lot of admiration for her performance in Parallel Mothers, specifically, and she is very well liked, generally, so don’t count out Penelope Cruz as a dark horse upset. (I am generally leaving Olivia Colman out of this because she recently won an Oscar, and the Academy rarely gives close-quarter wins.)
But Chastain wasn’t just a winner last night, she also reunited with Oscar Isaac, her friend and co-star in Scenes From a Marriage. They showed up in his and hers tuxes and were generally much less horny than they were last year while promoting their series. Still, they both look super hot standing next to one another.