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Oscars: Is Cate Blanchett emerging as Best Actress front-runner after ‘Tar’ festival circuit?

Gold Derby 9/19/2022 Hunter K. Taylor

Fresh off the “Tár” festival circuit, two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett seems poised to assume the role of Oscars front-runner in this year’s Best Actress race. Blanchett has garnered mountains of acclaim for her performance as the virtuosic composer Lydia Tár in Todd Field’s third feature film. Following the film’s world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, she has received universal praise for what Rebecca Ford, senior awards correspondent for Vanity Fair, calls “Blanchett’s career-best performance, which will likely land her an eighth Oscar nomination.”

It’s no wonder that critics are raving over Blanchett’s turn, with the performance being a typical awards magnet. Lydia Tár is described as an “iconic musician” who is an EGOT winner, a brilliant conductor and composer, and a protégé of the legendary Leonard Bernstein. Lydia’s towering career begins showing signs of crumbling when she finds herself in the midst of a scandal that could threaten her sterling public reputation.

SEECate Blanchett (‘Tar’) takes the lead in Oscar Experts’ predictions for Best Actress

Films about musicians tend to do well at the Academy Awards, especially if the actor at the center of the picture actually performs the music. We’ve seen this play out with winners such as Sissy Spacek for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Reese Witherspoon with her winning turn as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” and, most recently, with Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in “Judy.” Each of these performances won the Best Actress prize, and Blanchett has a unique opportunity to join them with her performance in “Tár.” According to Jazz Tangcay, Senior Artisans Editor at Variety, the film’s soundtrack “will feature Blanchett conducting a rehearsal of Mahler’s fifth symphony and cello work by 20-year-old Sophie Kauer.” This credit could also put Blanchett in the conversation for a Grammy bid down the road.

Critics have been kind to Blanchett throughout her career, with her awards shelf holding two Oscars (for her 2004 portrayal of Academy Award winning actress Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator” and her 2013 turn as bereft socialite Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis in “Blue Jasmine”) out of seven noms, plus three BAFTAs, three Golden Globes and three SAG Awards. She was recognized at the 2020 Emmys for her work in FX on Hulu’s “Mrs. America” for Best Limited Series Actress (as conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly) and Best Limited Series (as an executive producer). In addition to her screen accolades, Blanchett has received a 2017 Tony nomination for her Broadway debut as Anna Petrovna in “The Present,” an adaptation of Anton Chekov’s “Platonov.” Any actress with a fraction of Blanchett’s prestige would be on the voters’ radar, and with the buzz coming out of the festivals, it will be difficult for the academy to ignore her on nomination morning.

Blanchett’s performance has already been picking up hardware, a tell-tale sign of good will, with wins at the Venice Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival. The Silver Medallion, awarded to three recipients at Telluride each year, is a strong signal of awards support, having been awarded to performers and filmmakers who have gone on to receive Oscar nominations and wins. Recent acting beneficiaries include Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”), Emma Stone (“The Favourite”) and Rooney Mara (“Carol”), who each went on to receive Oscar nominations for their performances, as well as Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) and Renée Zellweger (“Judy”), who later won Academy Awards.

SEECate Blanchett manipulates time in eerie trailer for ‘TÁR’

The same predictive stat can be noted for the Volpi Cup, presented at the Venice Film Festival, with previous Best Actress winners going to receive recognition from the academy. In the last six years, four such actresses have been recognized by Oscar voters: Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) and Emma Stone (“La La Land”), with Colman and Stone winning at their respective Oscar ceremonies. Blanchett herself is a previous Volpi Cup recipient for her work as Jude Quinn (a Bob Dylan proxy) in 2007’s “I’m Not There,” which netted her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 80th Academy Awards.

Film festival buzz aside, “Tár” marks director Todd Field’s triumphant return to cinema after a 16-year hiatus, all but guaranteeing the film will be widely seen, bolstering Blanchett’s campaign organically. Field is a three-time Oscar nominee for writing and producing “In the Bedroom” and writing “Little Children.” He also has an exceptional track record when it comes to directing his actors to Oscar recognition, as he has successfully landed five of his leads (Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson and Marisa Tomei for “In the Bedroom,” Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley for “Little Children”) Academy Award nominations.

According to Gold Derby’s Best Actress Oscar odds, there is currently a tie for first place between Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”). The category is predicted to be rounded out by Margot Robbie (“Babylon”), Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”) and Viola Davis (“The Woman King”).

PREDICTthe 2023 Oscar nominees through January 24

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