While Lady Gaga picked up Oscar buzz well before A Star Is Born's October release, the campaign began to tire itself by year's end, letting a couple of other contenders giving equally talented though far less-hyped performances rope-a-dope their ways in. Two of those women are Olivia Colman and Melissa McCarthy, whose respective portrayals of the hot-and-cold Queen Anne in The Favourite and irl author Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me? might just earn one of them the Best Actress award that so many of us had written off as Gaga's last fall. Should either Colman or McCarthy win? Out managing editor Michelle Garcia and Out casting director Maxwell Losgar argue their cases below. -- Harron Walker
MICHELLE GARCIA: What I love about Olivia Colman, in general, is that she has this lovely range. In Broadchurch, she plays a steadfast detective of a small town, making up one half of a dynamic duo opposite David Tennant's incredibly tense character. Even as the batty, kinda slutty cop in Hot Fuzz, she stands out. And she's about to play our current queen in the next couple of seasons of The Crown on Netflix. Colman can make any character distinct, and in The Favourite, as Queen Anne, it feels like she is finally getting her due. There are so many delicious, grotesque things about this movie, but Colman, at the center of it all, plays this character with a sort of vulnerability that just leaps off the screen. She plays this messy, intimidating yet fragile monarch with layers of complexity. To me, her portrayal comes across as simply fearless.
Generally, I also adore Melissa McCarthy, so I have no problems with her performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but I just feel like Colman's portrayal has stuck with me through this awards season. (Also, can you believe we have this many incredible lesbian roles for Best Actress in one year?! Pinch. Me.)
MAXWELL LOSGAR: If we're measuring the deservedness of this year's award by overall range, I'd argue that Melissa's got this one in the bag. Having launched a career in television on the hit show Gilmore Girls, McCarthy was long overlooked in Hollywood. It wasn't until her star turn in 2011 instant classic Bridesmaids -- for which she received her first Academy Award nomination -- that audiences took notice of her genius. Ever since Bridesmaids entered the zeitgeist McCarthy has been steadily building momentum, and she's showed no signs of slowing down. Her pitch-perfect portrayal of a struggling single mom in St. Vincent opposite Bill Murray is a far cry from her expertly layered performance in the uproarious comedy Spy, where she plays a CIA analyst turned overnight field agent. McCarthy gives 110% every time she steps in front of the camera, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? is no exception.
McCarthy approaches her role as celebrity biographer Lee Israel -- a completely vile and unlikeable character -- from a place of brutal honesty. Her performance forces the viewer to accept Lee's glaring flaws and love her unconditionally. This is no easy feat. McCarthy's strength is her ability to turn an otherwise pathetic person into someone relatable. She balances Lee's cringeworthy criminal activity with blunt comedy and quiet intensity. For a slow film, I found myself consistently at the edge of my seat.
GARCIA: I think for me, what's striking is this sense of both antiquity and modernity that Colman conjures in this role. She's a relic of England's monarchy while also delivering language and attitude that feels refreshingly real while still being wonderfully grotesque and eerie. There's this sumptuous richness to her performance that I could probably watch over and over again.
I also have to say, watching her canoodling with her co-stars, Emma Stone and (especially) Rachel Weisz? Bugged-out eyes emoji!
LOSGAR: Stellar co-stars is definitely something both Colman and McCarthy have in common, I'll give you that! Can You Ever Forgive Me? is nothing without Richard E. Grant gleefully bouncing a bounty of cynicism off of McCarthy's glib, self-destructive rendering of Israel. I am a huge fan of The Favourite, don't get me wrong, but I think that film's ensemble had better material to work with. I admit this is a strange defense, but I'm impressed by McCarthy's ability to turn a somewhat dull screenplay into something colorful and profound. There's no one who could have achieved what McCarthy did in this particular role. Whereas I could easily envision a myriad of other actors filling Olivia's shoes -- Jennifer Saunders, Julie Walters...even Molly Shannon! The award we're debating is for performance, and I think McCarthy excelled here. Give The Favourite Best Original Screenplay if you must, but Best Actress belongs to McCarthy.
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