A promotion poster for the Academy Awards.

It’s showtime, ladies: Oscars 2018

Next week’s Academy Awards will celebrate 90 years of cinematic excellenceand on the back of the #metoo movement, there’s never been a better time to honour the women lighting up the silver screen.

These are the women who’ve forced Hollywood to acknowledge the existence of sexual harassment in their industry, and in society in general. Their united support of a black dress code at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAS has been applauded worldwide. The end result is that this awards season has seen more respect shown towards the women of the movie industry, than at any other time.

So, let’s pick up the thread and examine the contenders for Monday’s (March 5) Best Actress Oscar. Having watched all their movies, it’s easy to see why the category is one of the most competitive in the program… which makes the lead-up to the announcement even more exciting.

1. Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

In a dark comedy-drama she originally thought she was too old for, Frances McDormand proves that age is no limit when it comes to playing the heroine. The film’s director, Martin McDonagh, wrote this character specifically for McDormand, and she does not disappoint. The Oscar favourite delivers an incredibly raw performance as a mother searching for closure following the murder of her daughter. When the local police fail to find the killer, McDormand’s character pays for billboard-sized ads, directed at the Police Chief. The issues of domestic violence, racism, and gun control are echoed in her activist-like performance, made all the more relevant in light of the #metoo movement and the protests following the Parkland school shooting. McDormand’s emotionally-driven character filled with grouchiness and dark humour gives her the edge over the other women in this category.

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2. Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan stars in this coming-of-age film – the only film in this category directed by a woman. This is the 23-year-old’s third Oscar nomination. Set in 2002, Ronan plays a high-school senior, preparing for college life. She creates a relatable character who experiments with dating, makes new friends, hurts old friends and struggles with her relationships with family… especially her mother. This constant struggle to find her own identity, is portrayed so convincingly by Ronan that it’s no wonder she earned the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical. There is no doubt Ronan is one of the rising stars in the film industry and if she misses out this year, is certain to have her time in the Oscar spotlight in the near future.

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3. Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water 

Another top contender is Sally Hawkins for her silent, expressive performance in The Shape of Water. Her character Eliza is a mute cleaner, making Hawkins’ task of capturing the audience a difficult one. The Cold War era film follows Eliza and the disruption to her routine at a research facility, when a fish-man creature is captured by the US government. Eliza bonds with the sea monster, which leads to an inter-species love story with a mythical twist. Hawkins’ ability to communicate her story through sign language, body language and facial expressions is impressive to watch. While it might be considered an upset if she won, it’s entirely possible her name will be in the winner’s envelope.

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4. Margot Robbie – I, Tonya

It’s a big ask for any actor to take on a role based a real person. The story of US figure skater Tonya Harding is brutal and dramatic to say the least. Considering Aussie Margot Robbie was only four years-old when the Nancy Kerrigan knee-bashing incident made headlines, it’s no wonder she had no idea the story was true until she went through the script. Robbie excels in this true melodrama, through an honest, gritty portrayal of Harding. She prepared for this role by taking four months of skating lessons and nailed Harding’s look – her hair, costumes and even her accent was better than expected. While this film wasn’t as strong as some movies nominated this year, Robbie produced a great performance worthy of her first Oscar nomination.

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5. Meryl Streep – The Post

There is no surprise when Meryl Streep gets nominated for an Oscar. Her portrayal of the empowering newspaper publisher Katherine Graham has guided Streep to her 21st Academy Award nod. In this movie, also based on real-life, Graham follows in her father and husband’s footsteps as she spearheads the family newspaper, The Washington Post, in the early 1970’s. She changes the paper’s course by expanding its market from local to a source of national news. In a period of male-dominated journalism, the pioneering publisher steers the paper through multiple scandals – including the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Scandal – while advancing the principles of journalism and a free press. This is the 10th time Streep has played an historical figure, and she continues to demonstrate her ability to embody a character to a tee.

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So who’ll get the Oscar?

The speculation over who will take out this category has shifted slightly since the beginning of the awards season. All performances are nothing short of brilliant, and if any of these actresses were nominated in any other year, they would have been a hot favourite. However, it looks like Frances McDormand has this in the bag. She’s already picked up a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, a Critics’ Choice Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. This latter, peer-voted award, usually predicts who will take out the Oscar. There’s have been only two occasions in the past decade, when this hasn’t been the case. Will there be another upset? Not likely. McDormand should start working on her acceptance speech. – Olivia Silk