Last year the Oscars weathered a postponement of the voting window, a change of date, the lack of a host, and a whole new location to accommodate COVID protocols—so you’d think that now, with things (relatively) back to normal, the 2022 ceremony would be smooth sailing for the Academy. Instead the opposite has been true, with the run-up to this year’s Oscars proving to be one of the most chaotic in recent memory.
In an attempt to reverse the show’s declining ratings, it was announced last month that eight of the less high-profile categories would not be presented during the live telecast, sparking something of a civil war within the film industry. (It was reported that the move came after ABC, the Oscars’ broadcast network, strong-armed the Academy into slimming down the ceremony’s running time.) An attempt to make the voting process more democratic with the introduction of a category voted for on Twitter, #OscarsFanFavorite, backfired spectacularly as Johnny Depp apologists launched a campaign to promote his latest, little-seen film Minamata, while fans of Camila Cabello attempted to spam her widely panned Cinderella adaptation to victory.
Then there was the news last week that Rachel Zegler—the lead in Steven Spielberg’s best-picture nominee West Side Story—had not been an extended an invite, coinciding with the announcement of a lineup of presenters that was, to put it politely, eclectic, including the likes of Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, and DJ Khaled. (It was later revealed that the ensuing internet backlash led the Academy to ask Zegler to present an award too.)
Less reflective of the Academy, but just as much of a roller coaster, has been the awards-season race in general—and few categories are as hotly contested as best actress, which, just days before the Oscars ceremony begins, is still anyone’s game. What makes this year’s best-actress runoff so interesting, though, is the way in which it speaks less to the quality of the performances this year than to the internal politics of the Academy and the kind of actors they like (or don’t like) to reward.
Here we run through every actor nominated for best actress—and why this will be the trophy to watch at this year’s Oscars.
Kristen Stewart, Spencer