If there’s any safe bet when it comes to the Oscars, it’s betting on Amy Adams. In the past 10 years, she has earned five Academy Awards nominations. Her first was Best Supporting Actress for Junebug in 2006, followed by nominations in the same category for Doubt in 2008, The Fighter in 2010 and The Master in 2012. She secured her first Best Actress nod in 2013 for American Hustle and that streak could continue this year with either Arrival or Nocturnal Animals.
“I’m always grateful if I get to be there,” Adams humbly told ET when asked about garnering Oscar buzz for two films in one year. She then added, just as chipperly, “If not, then that’s OK too. I’m happy to support really good films. I’m in the Academy, so I’ll be voting for the awesome films and performances I’ve seen so far.”
Academy rules stipulate that Adams can’t actually compete against herself — an actor cannot earn two nominations in the same category in the same year — and it doesn’t behoove her to submit herself for Best Actress twice and risk splitting the votes. Actors can and have been nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the same year though, and while Adams is indisputably the lead of both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, she wouldn’t be the first to lean into a rather loose definition of “Supporting” to suit her needs.
Here’s how I imagine it will unfold: Adams will make herself available for your consideration as a Best Actress contender for Arrival. With Viola Davis going Supporting for Fences, there’s a spot open in the race. Emma Stone (La La Land) and Natalie Portman (Jackie) are all but guaranteed nominations, with the other three likely going to a combination of Adams, Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins).
In Arrival, Adams plays linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks, who is enlisted to help communicate with a number of alien heptopods that have landed on earth. Ahead of the screening I saw, screenwriter Eric Heisserer discussed the difficulties of getting his movie made, recalling his conversations with a number of studio heads: Is Chris Pratt the hero? No. Are there explosions? No. Does it begin a franchise? No. The story is not about an alien threat, because there seemingly isn’t one; it’s about trying to understand the aliens and the purpose of their arrival. It’s the lead up to what could cause a War of the Worlds and the exploration of how that could be avoided with patience and communication. It is a first contact movie that might just teach us how to be better human beings.
“The script was beautifully, beautifully written. It was one of my favorite scripts that I’ve ever read. It got me right away and it became one of those that I had to do,” Adams explained to ET. It also offered her the opportunity to showcase just how sure-footed an actress she is: She plays Dr. Banks with muted nuance, confident and vulnerable, logical and affecting. She’s the anchor at the heart of the movie, supported by Jeremy Renner as a theoretical physicist, of which Adams insisted: “He really is a leading man in his own right. Very often you see women who are willing to go back and forth between supporting and lead, but that’s not as common for men.”
Should she shoot for dual nominations, Adams must then submit herself for Best Supporting Actress for Nocturnal Animals, though that would stretch even the most lenient interpretation of what it means to be supporting. As we’re only talking theoretically, it is a less crowded field, so far: Davis will get her nod and is the frontrunner to win, with nominee potential for Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), and Nicole Kidman (Lion).
Nocturnal Animals is the second feature film by designer Tom Ford and Adams stars as Susan, a deeply unhappy artist who receives a novel manuscript, likewise titled “Nocturnal Animals,” written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). Adams spends a large portion of the film draped over some sort of chaise or another in her mansion, lovingly if not erotically photographed reading said book. Nonetheless, as with every other time she’s appeared onscreen, she is captivating. She taps into a darkness here that we are not used to seeing from her, playing a character that is cynical in ways that she most certainly is not.
“When you look into Amy’s eyes, it’s as though you look right into her soul,” Ford gushed. “There is so much there, and you can sense whether she’s happy, sad, stressed, depressed. You can read what she wants you to. As an actress, she can project that.”
It’s a meaty performance that mines places I’m not sure the rest of the film goes. Nocturnal Animals is beautifully shot from the first scene, but ultimately, it’s just a not-so-subtle metaphor that proves more style than substance. Ford has never met a nude scene he hasn’t loved, and the movie aches to eke out emotion via juxtaposing style and beauty with the dregs of depravity. The entire movie can be summed up in one shot: Aaron Taylor-Johnson sits on a toiler, naked, his beautiful body on display, as he takes a s**t and then, after wiping, Ford makes a choice to show the dirty toilet paper. The director’s previous film, 2009’s A Single Man, did net Colin Firth a Best Actor nomination, but I imagine that Adams will let Nocturnal Animals swirl down the drain and focus her attention on Arrival and the Best Actress race. It’s her best shot at winning an Oscar, and, for the record, she’s due.