It's entirely redundant to tell you that Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress are The Film Experience's favorite Oscar categories. This year's field continues to feel slippery, amorphous, unknowable which is... great. It should be hard to pin down the Oscar race before films have been widely seen and release dates have fully settled. The charts this month are quite shuffled so I hope you'll devour them.
ACTRESS Most pundits have assumed since the very beginning that Cotillard and Wallis were locked up done deals but I'm actually still not comfortable inking either of them in. They could happen, sure, but there are so many contenders and no one beyond Jennifer Lawrence (having one of those mega years that's impossible to deny) has cemented a position here. Especially with all the movement. Even one of these smaller films with rising stars (Olsen, Winstead, Fanning) could happen theoretically or at least siphon key votes if audiences and critics are kind and their campaign is strong.
We should note that little Quvenzhané Wallis has a new problem beyond her very young age in that SAG won't be nominating her (declaring the cast ineligible). Cotillard also has a significant problem in that she isn't the only reknowned actress killing it in a subtitled drama. Emmanuelle Riva anyone? The Hiroshima Mon Amour star is a powerhouse in a very difficult role in Amour. I've just seen the movie so perhaps it's wishful thinking but this is very moving work.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS The big new question mark for me is whether biopic mimicry -- Scarlett Johansson doing Janet Leigh's arched brow Psycho tics -- will finally win her Oscar attention after her breakthrough early misses nine years ago (Girl with the Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation... and to a lesser extent her Woody Allen hussy in Match Point). She stopped being an actress for awhile moving straight to über celebrity but after her Tony-winning run on Broadway and renewed vigor in her filmography, this could be the year. Or will various Psycho co-stars steal the spotlight. It's worth noting that Toni Collette can steal spotlights from anyone anywhere... and if her Hitchcock assistant role has a key scene or two that she can wow in, watch out! (That's a mighty big "if" of course in a film with stars this big playing famous Hollywood icons.)
I should also note that though I'm on the record as no fan of Helen Hunt's 90s Oscar win, I found her work in The Sessions to be very strong. To me it's unquestionably a leading role (it wouldn't be if we didn't spend time with her outside of the titular sessions but we do, making this a lopsided duet) and I'm a bit curious as to why Fox Searchlight so adamantly settled on a supporting campaign so early given that a lead Actress nod still doesn't seem unattainable for this previous winner.