Journo pally on yesterday’s “Gotta Be Mulligan” riff: “I talk to a lot of AMPAS voters including actors, and I keep hearing enormous enthusiasm (unsolicited) for Sophia Loren‘s performance in The Life Ahead. I wonder why she isn’t on any of these handicapper lists? And I haven’t heard anyone mention Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) or Zendaya (Malcom & Marie) at all.”

HE to Journo Pally: “You’re mostly talking to long-of-toothers, right? Or are you also talking to the Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill crowd? Loren is excellent in Edoardo Ponti’s remake of Madame Rosa, and it’s wonderful to see her in a good role again. I’m guessing some of them are feeling a nostalgic or generational kinship with Loren. She’s very good in the film — solid gravitas, earnest, compassionate, quietly affecting.

When a well-known actor breaks through with a potential Oscar-calibre performance, it’s either because they’ve delivered the best default performance…the ultimate version of the kind of character they’re strongly identified with (Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird, Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman). Or because they’ve broken some kind of new ground, and nailed it to boot.

Loren definitely did the latter in Vittorio De Sica‘s Two Women (’60) and Ettore Scola‘s in A Special Day (’77). Her performance in The Life Ahead is not a groundbreaker but a quality-level ratifier of a classic Sophia Loren signature role.

I still say the hottest contenders are Promising Young Woman‘s Carey Mulligan and Nomadland‘s Frances McDormand with Mulligan holding the edge.