By my count, Oscars have gone to actors playing mute or deaf characters four times–Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda, John Mills in Ryan’s Daughter, Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God, and Holly Hunter in The Piano. You can also add Jean Dujardin for his (almost) wordless performance in The Artist. If all the advance word is true, a another may be added this year. It seems Oscar loves performers who don’t speak.
But it’s still early, so things may change. This is how I see the Best Actress race at the end of October. In alphabetical order:
Annette Bening, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. Will Annette Bening ever win an Oscar? She’s playing a juicy role, that of Oscar-winner Gloria Grahame. The question is whether this film will be released this year. It’s been pushed back all the way to December 29th. One thing is for sure–she won’t lose to Hillary Swank again.
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water. The front-runner, playing a mute woman who falls in love with a strange creature. The film is sci-fi, so it has something of an obstacle to overcome, but the advance word is great.
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film has been a hit at festivals, and judging by the trailer McDormand is given some memorable lines. She’s been nominated four times before, so seems to be an Academy favorite.
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya. She received a Gotham Award nomination, so apparently the film is not a joke. Tonya Harding certainly is a role full of comedy and drama, and Oscar like performers who play real people. Would Tonya Harding attend the ceremony?
Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel. Woody Allen is always good at getting women Oscar nominations. This would be Kate’s eighth total, for what is said to be a meaty role of a woman living on Coney Island during the ’50s.
Also possible: Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project; Meryl Streep, The Post, Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul; Saorsie Ronan, Lady Bird; Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game.