When I read that Sony Pictures Classics had acquired The Wife, which a few of us flipped over after seeing it in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, I naturally figured they’d platform it sometime in late December and then launch a Best Actress campaign for Glenn Close in January along with a modest commercial opening.

Well, they’re not doing that. SPC has decided to open The Wife sometime in 2018 (probably next fall), and in so doing has forfeited what could have been a legendary Best Actress Oscar contest between two grand dames, Close and Meryl Streep, who will almost certainly be nominated for her performance as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in The Post.

Close’s performance as Joan Castleman, an under-appreciated wife of a best-selling, somewhat imperious author (Jonathan Pryce), would be a Best Actress shoo-in, trust me. She could even become the front-runner as no one wants to give Streep another Oscar. A nomination, okay, but not a win. Three Oscars on Streep’s mantle are enough.

SPC’s decision to withdraw Close from this year’s Best Actress contest has to be one of the most disappointing award-season calls of all time. They’re shutting down one of the hottest Best Actress contenders of the year in order to…what, save money? To give a better shot to Annette Bening, whose performance as Gloria Grahame in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool has a dicey chance of being nominated, at best?

Close can win, guys! 70 years old and Oscar-nominated six times (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) but never a win. That’s called a compelling narrative and a strong reason to vote for her. Who in the Academy is clamoring to give Streep her fourth Oscar? Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan and Sally Hawkins give award-calibre performances in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird and The Shape of Water, respectively, but Close would out-point them, and not just because of her age and history.

She’s playing a steely, classy, soft-spoken lady who’s bitten her tongue and quietly endured career frustration so that her husband can play the role of the big swaggering author. This is a character and a situation that taps into the feelings of God knows how many women out there, middle-aged and old, who’ve had to cope with an unwarranted lack of respect or opportunity or lower wages their whole lives.

This plus Close’s personal narrative would strongly favor a win, and yet SPC is turning tail and giving up without a fight. What Academy or guild member will feel big excitement about Close this time next year? Everyone will be saying “oh, now they’re finally releasing the film and pushing Glenn? Where were they last year?”

The biggest winner in this decision is I, Tonya‘s Margot Robbie, who might be able to snag the fifth slot now.