We have an international competition for this year’s Oscar for best actress. One nominee is from France, one is from Ireland and one is from, well, Syosset (but she was born in Israel). As it happens, that’s the lady to keep your eye on.
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
She’s the rare actress to show up in this category for a foreign-language film, but Huppert is a rare talent. She’s worked with some great directors (Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol), but it took Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop”) to guide her to the Oscars. She’s nominated for playing a woman hunting the man who raped her.
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
In this movie about an interracial couple who dare to marry during the 1960s, Negga sounds distinctively Southern. Actually, she’s part Ethiopian and was raised in Ireland. Although “Loving” hasn’t been a major hit, it’s nice to see the Academy cherry-pick her for such a stunning performance.
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Portman was raised on Long Island, and so was Jacqueline Kennedy, but that’s probably not why the actress got the part of the beloved first lady. Portman does a fine job in the role, nailing all the mannerisms and lending that famous smile a hint of darkness. She’s the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar Sunday night.
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
She’s absolutely radiant as a starry-eyed actress in this original musical. Like her co-star, Ryan Gosling, she gamely tackles some highly challenging song-and-dance numbers. An Oscar, though? Probably not for this movie, but surely sometime soon.
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
It wouldn’t be the Oscars without Streep, would it? She’s terrific as the world’s worst opera singer in this sparkling screwball comedy based on a real-life figure, but she’ll probably have to settle for the nomination. It’s her 20th, by the way.