In a rather beautiful turn of events, both Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty arrived to implications of raves (ah, pointless Les Miz embargo) and actual ones (ZDT had no embargo) and though neither are opening until Santa's elves are deep into overtime, they've made the forthcoming Oscar race much more exciting. What we have are real competitions in multiple categories. At least for now; precursor prizes have a way of flattening out the drama if they arrive at consensus too quickly. We've already discussed Les Miz's first screening and the Hugh vs. Daniel Best Actor race.
But while you're waiting for my Zero Dark Thirty review, let's discuss the confusing Best Actress race.
What's the confusion, you may be asking. Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is still the frontrunner for Silver Linings Playbook and yes Jessica Chastain will be nominated for anchoring Zero Dark Thirty with single-minded determination. More...
(The absence of backstory and any sort of traditional character study arguably make Zero Dark Thirty more distinct and thematically authentic, but I don't think they necessarily do Jessica Chastain any favors from the cheaper angle of "but what about winning an Oscar!?!". But I digress...) Beyond Jennifer & Jessica who are sucking up more than their share of the conversation, opinions vary greatly. I personally suspect, having spoken to a few voters now, that Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) who I've been predicting for some time, has little to worry about. That'll be especially true if she shows up stateside for key events. Here's hoping critics awards lure her to make the trek! The Impossible's Naomi Watts seems like a solid bet, if no sure thing, given the intensity of her role, if not its level of difficulty. So let's assume, for argument's sake, that those four are locked and loaded. Who fills the last slot?
Nearly all of the other competitors have significant obstacles to overcome to land on the shortlist. Everyone knows that the nine year old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild Quvenzhane Wallis, just nominated for a Spirit Award, will break the Youngest Best Actress age record by a good margin. But... get this: she'll also be the youngest female ever nominated for any acting category and the third youngest overall.
YOUNGEST OSCAR NOMINEES
- Justin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) - 8 years, 276 days [Supp Actor]
- Jackie Cooper, Skippy (1931) - 9 years, 20 days [Lead Actor]
- Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon (1973) - 10 years, 106 days *WINNER* [Supp Actress / Category Fraud]
- Mary Badham, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) -10 years, 141 days [Supp Actress / Category Fraud]
- Quinn Cummings, The Goodbye Girl (1977) - 10 years, 192 days [Supp Actress]
- Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine (2006) - 10 years, 284 days [Supp Actress]
- Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed (1956) - 11 years, 181 days [Supp Actress]
- Anna Paquin, The Piano (1993) - 11 years, 200 days *WINNER* [Supp Actress]
- Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense (1999) - 11 years, 311 days [Supp Actor / Category Fraud]
- Brandon deWilde, Shane (1953) - 11 years, 312 days [Supp Actor]
- Saoirse Ronan, Atonement (2007) - 13 years, 200 days [Supp Actress]
- Keisha Castle Hughes, Whale Rider (2003) - 13 years, 309 days [Lead Actress]
But back to the adults...
Oscar winner Marion Cotillard might be nominated for Rust & Bone (more on her soon). BUT, as my friend David pointed out to me, if she is it'll be the first time a Best Actress role involved lots of trolling for dick on a cel phone! Previous nominee Keira Knightley and previous winner Helen Mirren are also being talked up for Anna Karenina and Hitchcock respectively but in both cases the love isn't really there for the films themselves for one reason or another. In Keira's case that's frustrating since I think she belongs in the Best discussion. I'd love to think that Maggie Smith (Quartet) and Barbra Streisand (The Guilt Trip), both of whom I was bullish on many months ago on paper, were still possibilities but those films could not have lower awards profiles. I was literally shocked tonight when Quartet arrived in the mail. So it does exist after all!!! Quartet may well have the lowest profile ever for a film with an Oscar friendly topic with so many Oscarable people in it directed by an Oscar winning actor.
My guess for the fifth nominee is still Helen Mirren. People think that's crazy since Hitchcock has been attacked in several quarter but I'm still guessing Mirren on account of my "default" theory. If you give Oscar voters too many options, or too many non-traditional options, they sometimes retreat to security blanket actors. (Think Judi Dench in Mrs Henderson Presents in the dull 2005 lineup or half of the 2003 lineup -- a year in which there were many better but less traditional options available) Still, if there's a throw-their-hands-up-from-indecision default nominee again this year I suppose Dench could even repeat. There's always The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
NEWLY UPDATED CHARTS
Picture - I'm predicting seven nominees ending with Zero Dark Thirty on the chart
Actress - If Jennifer loses some steam we could have a three-way race: Lawrence vs. Riva vs. Chastain
Actor -previously discussed
Director - this is starting to look really solid as a quintet. But for my longtime guesswork of Michael Haneke which could obviously not happen but it would make a kind of narrative momentum sense if it did.