After the Riseborough takedown, who will win the leading actor Oscar?

An hour after the Academy’s CEO, Bill Kramer, issued a statement that Andrea Riseborough would be allowed to keep her lead nomination for To Leslie after an investigation by the Academy found her team was not breaking Oscar campaign rules violated, a voter called me to vent. And to tell me that she just finished watching To Leslie.

“Your team did nothing wrong,” said the academy member, “except to run an unconventional campaign that bypassed the Oscars machinery. She totally deserved the nomination and I’ve heard from a lot of friends who’ve seen the film since this whole stupid thing broke and they all agree. And you know what? I think she could win!”

The voter asked for anonymity in light of Kramer’s letter to members, urging them “not to publicly discuss your voting preferences or try to persuade others to vote similarly.” That letter also indicated that the Academy would be reviewing its rules as “it is evident that components of the rules need to be clarified in order to provide a better framework for respectful, inclusive and impartial campaigning”.

I look forward to seeing how “unbiased campaigning” is analyzed and defined. Because that’s a strange combination of words!

In the meantime, I’m wondering if this academician is into something: Could Riseborough pull a Ben Affleck and win an Oscar for a film that, up until a few weeks ago, was only seen by a handful of people outside the 310 area code?

You may remember what happened a decade ago when Affleck’s hit thriller Argo received seven nominations, including best picture, when Oscar nominations rolled out, but Affleck himself was overlooked for directing. Poor Affleck had to walk the red carpet to the Critics Choice Awards that night, a somber duty even under the best of circumstances, force a smile and, in his words, “pretend everything was fine, pretend as if it weren’t bothering you because, God forbid, something was bothering you.”

But that awful, awful, not good, very bad day sparked a burst of sympathy for Affleck, catapulting him to Golden Globe and Directors Guild honors, and shortly thereafter to a triumphant moment at the Oscars when “Argo” won best picture. Would “Argo” have won without the hysteria surrounding Affleck’s scandalous “snub”? Well… the publicity certainly didn’t hurt matters.

Unlike Riseborough’s To Leslie, no one had to google “Ben Affleck” or “Argo” when the Oscar nominations rolled in that year. So there’s a steep hill to climb for Riseborough, not to mention some impressive competition. Perhaps the busiest category at this year’s Oscars, the lead lady race was always going to be fiercely contested. Could Riseborough actually win? Let’s look at the nominees – in order of least likely to most likely to win – to see where we stand.

A woman with short, platinum blonde hair wears a pink dress and holds a vinyl record in one scene "Blond."

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde.

(2022 © Netflix/Netflix) After the Riseborough takedown, who will win the leading actor Oscar?

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