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Actress Battles: Jessica vs. Jennifer, Quvenzhané vs. History

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.

This particular shot is the second half of one of my favorite cuts of the year... from the screen she's watching to this face.

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. 


  1. Justin Henry, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) - 8 years, 276 days [Supp Actor]
  2. Jackie Cooper, Skippy (1931) - 9 years, 20 days [Lead Actor]
  3. Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon (1973) - 10 years, 106 days *WINNER* [Supp Actress / Category Fraud]
  4. Mary Badham, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) -10 years, 141 days [Supp Actress / Category Fraud]
  5. Quinn Cummings, The Goodbye Girl (1977) - 10 years, 192 days [Supp Actress]
  6. Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine (2006) - 10 years, 284 days [Supp Actress]
  7. Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed (1956) - 11 years, 181 days [Supp Actress]
  8. Anna Paquin, The Piano (1993) - 11 years, 200 days *WINNER* [Supp Actress]
  9. Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense (1999) - 11 years, 311 days [Supp Actor / Category Fraud]
  10. Brandon deWilde, Shane (1953) - 11 years, 312 days [Supp Actor]
  11. Saoirse Ronan, Atonement (2007) - 13 years, 200 days [Supp Actress]
  12. 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.

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.

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Reader Comments (71)

I'm sold on Wallis, but not on Watts. Still not sure who gets that fifth slot.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Great call on Riva. I think if anyone is beating Lawrence, I think it'll be her. Also, do you not think The Impossible has any shot at Best Picture? I could see it surprising at the box office and scoring a nod. It should at least be in the top 20 contenders.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I'm almost in complete agreement with you, except I'd switch Watts's lock status for Wallis's. I don't feel the same passion for The Impossible that I"ve sensed from Beasts, and I think that Wallis will be able to make it for the long haul. I think it's a footrace between Watts and Mirren for the fifth slot, though.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterReggina

Every time I read someone talking about Jessica Chastain's character in ZDT I think that it'd be a great role for Hilary Swank.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Marion is IN!

It's a performance that will have critics awards and wins and I don't see how any of the major academies and award bodies won't nominate her.

Furthermore, in terms of 'Hollywood', she's arguably the biggest star in the race - Jennifer Lawrence is, but she's a newcomer of sorts, as is Jessica Chastain. Marion will campaign, she's on the front of every magazine AND none of this is truly needed as it's an incredible performance and she's due (Nine? Midnight In Paris?) , factor in to that her big year, also the star of The Dark Knight Rises and we've got a lock.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

I love Marion, she is one the best actresses of our time, but she is not due. I mean, at all.

I think there is no overdue factor this year. Maybe Naomi Watts, but she hasn't been deserving a lot of awards lately in spite of being a terrific actress.Naomi would be the virtual winner this year if she had the right role. But I think a nom now will be great for her. She will build momentum again and may win for her her performance as Diana.

Now, I think they're going for Lawrence - great year, princess, hot, and, yes, a great young actress. Maybe too young... Jessica could upset.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Perhaps I shouldn't of used the word due, she's not due, but there's a lot of goodwill towards her and she's delivered performances more worthy than other nominated performances, she was superior to Cruz in Nine, yet Cruz was nom'd, furthermore, she's made her presence known in Hollywood, in Inception/TDKR.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

I want to live in a world were Riva and Cotillard get in without discussion.

I honestly don't get all the praises that Watts is getting for her performance. Her biggest effort was to get dirty every single day of shooting.

What about Rachel Weisz? It's a way more complicated performance and she has that cherished old-classic Hollywood aura.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I think Jennifer Lawrence is a lock - talented, beautiful young actress, with a huge box office success (Hunger Games) in a well received film (SLP).
Jessica Chastain is a very gifted actress, who gave us great pefomances in 2011, working in a probably strong best picture contender - she´s in.
Marion Cotillard is an amazing actress, who received a deserved Oscar from LA VIE EN ROSE, and continue to work in interesting projects since then, always with great perfomances, includind RUST AND BONE - she MUST ne nominated!
Naomi Watts is also an excellent actress, with only one nomination (21 GRAMS) in 2003 - it´s time to be recognized again!
I think it will be Lawrence, Chastain, Cotillard, Watts and Riva.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErick Loggia

Harvey Weinstein clearly hasn't learned his lesson -- He messed it up last year with Coriolanus and he's doing it again this year with Quartet. And this year the voting period starts even earlier! UNBELIEVABLE

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStu

I'm pretty sure Lawrence won the moment Silver Linings got raves in Toronto mixed with Hunger Games crossing $400 mil domestically.

I really hope The Globes revives Anna Karenina, or the critics do. I'd hate to see it not make it to the finish line.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

It's a weird year in this category. It's hard for me to believe any of Watts, Riva, Mirren, Wallis, Cotillard or Knightley get in - for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with the actual performances - but THREE (maybe FOUR! if Chastain doesn't quite pan out) of them will have to, because no one else is coming any closer.
Here's hoping those three are Riva, Cotillard, Knightley.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I'm also not feeling super-confident about Watts. As several people have said, it just doesn't seem like that performance is going to inspire the passion that Wallis's or Cotillard's performances do. Even people who love the movie mostly focus on the direction and the technical package. And Mirren's role doesn't have the baity, tour-de-force quality that Michelle Williams had going for her in another movie that was received only lukewarmly.

In order of likelihood:


November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

i find it interesting that no one thinks the content of Marion Cotillard's film will be a problem. Is it just because Marion has such superfans on the web that will always feel she's in (don't get me wrong i loved the performance)? Or is it that people haven't seen the movie? It's very much Matthias Schoenaerts movie and it's brutal and weird and grim and in French.

plus, though it's neither here nor there if it were a homo love story (haha) there's no way that Marion wouldn't be called "supporting" in an instance. and everyone would bitch at me for claiming that movies CAN have two leads and they'd all swear up and done that yes, it was supporting no ifs ands or buts or legs

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Marion is pretty much out. The film's reviews are weak and her role is VERY subtle.

Also Nat, no The Impossible in Best Picture?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

Marion is in. She's been campaigning like hell and knows how to work that in her favor. That leaves Riva vulnerable in my opinion since I doubt that the Academy would recognize two foreign languages performances in the same year, and Marion is the bigger star.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Doesn't "Hitchcock" really seem to have fallen off the map already?

I think they're more likely to go for Knightley in "Anna Karenina," who keeps getting talked about and so probably is going to get nominated again despite everyone saying she wouldn't after "Pride and Prejudice." People aren't complaining about her as much as in "A Dangerous Method" (in which I actually thought she was better) and the film -- as divisive as it is -- seems to have a strong fanbase.

I think you're right that the academy won't take to "Rust and Bone," but it's a fractured race like 2003, so who knows?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCal

why isn't Patty McCormack's nomination for supporting 'Category Fraud'...??!

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermr. salty

I see the future (Viola/Jessica) vs (Meryl/Jennifer) essentially that's how each teams demographics will breakdown. I'm counting on the precursors to curse Lawrence in the hardware department. Chastain will be giving speeches at award shows for her life/Actress Oscar—the only kind that matter.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I'm not quite convinced that Lawrence is pulling the win for Silver Linings, due to her film's low gross, with Riva (tearjerker) or Chastain (steely determination bound to get a good sized US gross) sounding more likely. As for who the fifth slot's seriously between, I'd put it down that, right now, five people have really serious shots at it: Mirren, Cotillard, Winstead, Mann and Wallis. (If Winstead pulls an upset at the Spirits, I'd say we have our field: Riva, Chastain, Lawrence, Winstead, Watts.) Knightley's a bit too divisive, Quartet is too far under the radar, Best Exotic isn't REALLY going to pull #1s and as for The Guilt Trip: I just saw the trailer, and, if that's an accurate reflection of the tone the performance is going for, I have to say I doubt it's going to be able to pull a Something's Got to Give. It seems a bit TOO broad for that.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Riva's performance is by far the best by any actress I have seen this year. Unbelievably good, stunning, amazing. If the Oscars were about the performances, and not about the campaining, the politics, magazine covers,talk shows, public image, likeability, being "hot and right , sue would have the awards in the bag. But she doesnt. She is old, foreign, unknown to the general audience and due to her age cant be flying everywhere to campaign and be seen everywhere and wont be at magazine covers and talk shows and photoshoots.

Cotillard was also breathtaking, and the role is oscar-baity - disability, physical transformation, suffering, deglam! But her character is not a traditional suffering damsel in distress and kit always likeable; and the movie is spoken in french, is too raw, weird, dirty, and there's a LOT of sex-legless sex, which could go against her.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I agree on who the top four names are, but my placements are:

1. Riva
2. Chastain
3. Lawrence (with a higher gross, I could see this as a crowd pleaser win. As is, not quite there.)
4. Watts (Knock this down if The Impossible duds at the US cinemas.)
5. ? (Personal view on current order of likelihood: Mann (expect the Mus/Com Globe win at the very least), Mirren, Winstead (bumped at least one position up if she pulls an upset at the Spirits), Cotillard (can't see two foreign language performances getting Lead Nods, sorry), Knightley (I get she's in the argument, but she's a divisive actress and I'm not sure the Academy has EVER had an actual taste for Tolstoy), Wallis (can't quite see someone this young netting a lead actress nom, sorry)). Quartet is too under the radar and The Guilt Trip seems like it might be way too broad to get number ones.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I meant " t her character is not a traditional suffering damsel in distress and INST always likeable", damm Iphone.

Naomi is a very, very, very good actress, but I dont think she will ever win. She is just not the type. she seems to me tp go down the Julianne Moore/Glenn Close/Michelle Williams route- excellent, respected, admired, looked up to, multiple nominee that comes across as understated, dry, maybe cold or "not playing the game enough". She is shy, reserved, very private- she really reminds of Michelle Williams, only ten years older. She is not " cutesy" enough, not " out there" enough, not " big celebrity/glamour girl" enough, not eager and hungry enough, not " Anne Hathaway" enough, not " Lea Michelle´s character in Glee" enough. I dont think she will ever win.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Amanda: Though they're not entirely about the performance aspect, which is a shame, it's not something that's entirely disregarded and, unless SLP significantly picks up it's gross (it's designed as a crowdpleaser, which means it needs MONEY to grease anything that's not just "a nomination"), Riva or Chastain might be the most likely contenders for the win.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Amanda: Though they're not entirely about the performance aspect, which is a shame, it's not something that's entirely disregarded and, unless SLP significantly picks up it's gross (it's designed as a crowdpleaser, which means it needs MONEY to grease anything that's not just "a nomination"), Riva or Chastain might be the most likely contenders for the win.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Actress has had two foreign language nominees n their lineups before—this is the most piss poor year for Actress ever.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Isn't Rachel Weisz at least a vote siphoner too?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

WTF Frontrunner 2012-13: Jennifer Lawrence.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I would LOVE to see Emmanuelle Riva surprise win. It'll probably be the most glorified win of the night if she does -but she needs to get nominated first ;)

I still can't imagine Jennifer Lawrence winning right now. Sure, she's having an incredible year but she's very, very young. I feel if she continues down this great path, she can easily win in 5 years or so instead for a role that's made for her.

I think Jessica Chastain is going to surprise. She still has lots of momentum from last year and she kind of came out of the blue with rave reviews and surprising as a lead. She's at the right age and although the movie doesn't really dig deep into her character, Chastain (as I've read) carries the 'importance' of the film. Everybody seems to be praising her for such an important role.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkent

Quvenzhane Wallis is in. Drop either Watts or Mirren. I'd go with Watts, since Dame Helen is a former Oscar winner, after all. That'll be werid with no corresponding nod for Anthony Hopkins in lead actor, but it wouldn't be the first time the leading/supporting lady makes it in without her guy (no Dicaprio/Winslet for "Titanic"; no Neeson/Linney for "Kinsey", etc.). Poor Keira. She should be in over Lawrence, but a lot of this nod has the momentum from "Winter's Bone" and "Hunger Games" written all over it, and that's hard to combat.


Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Helen Mirren, "Hitchcock"
Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Quvenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulian

@Nat: I've also seen RUST & BONE and I would be REALLY surprised if Marion gets in...EVEN if she wins some critics prizes I don't think she has it safe. She needs precursors and that seems unlikely right now. I just dont see the majority of Oscar voters responding to the her movie. Like you said, it's too grim.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

My only quibble with Mirren in the top five is there may be enough people, though unlikely, who felt like she received in equal default nod two years ago for The Last Station.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

I loved Rust and Bone and think Cotillard is truly amazing in the role.. but I'm with Nathaniel, I fear she could be snubbed as Fassbender last year.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

Harvey Weinstein was behind five of Dench's six nominations. Interesting or no?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVince Smetana

Last month I saw a Bollywood movie called English Vinglish starring in her first movie in many years Indian superstar SRIDEVI! Time has been very kind to her and she still has that bewitching quality onscreen. She was wonderful in the film and if anyone deserves an Oscar nomination for best actress it is Sridevi. It's slim pickings for best actress this year and Nathan if English Vinglish is playing anywhere in NYC you need to see it!!!!

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny Zero Hintergardt

Hi Nathan...Linda Blair, age 12, for The Exorcist!

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

A lineup consisting of Lawrence, Riva, Chastain, Watts, and Wallis would be pretty damn great after the hot mess that was Best Actress 2011. Mirren will more than likely get a lazy nod, lest the category be too unconventional, but I don't know who to drop for her. The Academy loves little girls, and Watts is getting major support from her peers (Angelina Jolie, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, etc). Hmm...

I think that Marion Cotillard is in, like, forty-sixth place for 'Rust and Bone.' Foreign, too uncomfortable, too subtle, and I don't think the Academy is enamored of her as the Internet seems to be. She (narrowly) won nearly five years ago in a vague field, and hasn't been back since.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I think you're exactly right, Nathaniel. Cotillard's fandom always puts her in the race, but anyone who has seen the film can plainly see it would be a fight to get in. It is Schoenaerts' show, and if it were about two men or women, it would be considered a supporting role. Its baity on paper, but not on film. It just isn't Stephane's story, and the performance is very, very subdued. People seem to forget that the time she DID get it it was for the baitiest role ever, the type of performance that you couldn't ignore. Rust and Bone is very far from that.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArun

While I don't think that she'll be nominated, Rachel Weisz (considering her place in the Hollywood Reporter interview) is more vote siphoner than Elle Fanning).

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

My predictions:

1- Jennifer Lawrence
2- Jessica Chastain

I think the Oscar will be one of them. Yes, Lawrence is young, but she's having a record and an excellent year. In an atypical year, a young actress could win. But Chastain has the film and the "gimmick" moment -Women in military, a surprise hero-

3- Emmanuelle Riva

I don't think she'll win the Oscar, but she's the favorite by critics

4- Naomi Watts

"The Impossible" is having success in Europe -Especially UK-. So Watts could have the british vote.

5- Marion Cotillard

She's campaigning hard and with actors like Blanchett supporting I have hopes for her, but I think this: If she gets the nomination, she'll be the filler nomination at best.

Alt: Quvenzhané Wallis

I think Helen Mirren could have a random SAG nom, but that's all. Knightley's film is too polarizing and the record for actresses getting in acclaimed novels is thin:
-Michelle Pfeiffer - "The Age of Innocence"
-Isabelle Adjani - "The Queen Margot"
-Gillian Anderson - "The House of Mirth"
And the worst part, only these actresses got it: Vanessa Redgrave, Winona Ryder, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley... And only Redgrave got it in a film with mixed reviews.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

I forgot Helena Bonham Carter in the list but the point remains. When an actress plays a leading character in an acclaimed novel, the film must have excellent reviews and even with that they can't ignore you even if you are pretty and young -Gwyneth Paltrow in 1996-. Even I think Judi Dench have better chances than Knightley

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon


Actress has had two foreign language nominees n their lineups before—this is the most piss poor year for Actress ever.

Ridiculous. It's a great year if you include the fringes, and it's a pretty good year even if you only look at the ones in contention. How many of the mentioned performances have you actually seen?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Hey Nate do you think Life of Pi is being drowned out by the acclaim for Lincoln, Les Mis and ZDT? I'm certainly hearing respect for Lee's vision and ambition, but has their been the same ACCLAIM that his director counterparts have been receiving?

Life of Pi should get a huge pile of tech nominations, but can it eek out a BP and BD nomination in a tight year?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I don't get why you're so confident about Riva. Sure, she's a critic's favorite, but how often does that translate to an Oscar nomination, especially when the favorite is foreign, and old, and probably not all that interested in campaigning? I'd have something like Chastain/Lawrence/Watts/Mirren and then either Cotillard or Wallis.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDevil Shark

I think Jessica Chastain's nomination is more secure because of the success of Homeland. I just finished Season 1 of Homeland, and just like everyone else, I really liked it. It kind of paves the way for what kind of genre is ZD30, what kind of part is Chastain's, etc. Because if voters have to struggle with mentally placing a film, it can fall aside. Now they have a respected Emmy winning genre to place it in.

I also greatly admire Chastain's versatility and talent. I liked her action turn in The Debt, where she and Helen Mirren play the same character, younger and older versions. And here they are, both possibilities for this year.

I hope Bigelow is one of the directors nominated.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Without having seen any of these actresses discussed here, I'm going with Jessica. I have a feeling SLP is too lightweight for Lawrence to grab the gold. I hope to see it this weekend while girding my loins against my Bradley Cooper hate. But I'm really crazy to see ZD30. The Hurt Locker was all kinds of brilliant; Bigelow is right up there with Peckinpah in her skill as an action director--for different reasons.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

3rtful: That happened ONCE, IN THE SEVENTIES. Y'know, the most daring and experimental period in their history! Considering the line-up last year, I don't think we're anywhere close to THAT Academy.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

It was not once. Three times if you consider Carol Kane speaking a foreign language two. Two times in the 70's and one in the 60's. Still, it'd be very difficult.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I need to vent... When looking for possible votes, how can anyone IGNORE Rachel Weisz's brilliant performance in The Deep Blue Sea?

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

This year is contentious, and outside of Jennifer Lawrence, every single actress has some major cons against them. The last two years for best actress have proved that the Academy can be scarily bi-polar when it comes to voting for the year's best. I thought 2010 was a groundbreaking year for best actress, and easily the strongest since the superb 2006 lineup (Dench/Cruz/Streep/Mirren/Winslet). They honored truly career-best and edgy, artistic endeavors from Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams, two emotionally strong and dramatic independent works from Jennifer Lawrence and Nicole Kidman, and a wonderfully realized, socio-politically relevant tragicomic performance from Annette Bening....

...but last year showed that the Academy can be easily swayed by bait, status, and celebrity and in my opinion, they heavily watered down their outside-the-box choices from the previous year. Sure, Williams and Streep were good in their respective films and Davis made what she could out of a heavily underwritten role in a shmaltzy, emotionally manipulative film. Mara was kind of the "wild" choice, but I would have most definitely preferred Charlize Theron, Kirsten Dunst, Tilda Swinton, or Elizabeth Olsen to fill that void. And god only knows why Glenn Close was there other than an implicit "good job" for making her dream project.

So I guess what I am saying is that this year is curious in that there are MANY different scenarios in how the best actress race could pan out. Will it be like last year where they resort to familiar, Academy-friendly faces? If so Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Meryl Streep are likely faces. However, I think there are especially this year a dearth of impeccable, challenging roles in "anti" Academy films, like Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina. I know Cotillard has some doubters, and righteously so. The film is raw and weird and her performance is not baity, in the particular Oscar sense. But Riva is not in a particularly warm feel either, and Haneke has never been an artist that screams Oscar (he even lost foreign language film for The White Ribbon, when it undoubtedly should have been his). Even Jessica Chastain, a likely nominee, has many claiming her role doesn't have a noticeable backstory or arc that clinches an Oscar win (Naomi Watts has a similar problem). Regardless, it will certainly be an interesting year once we see the nominees. Considering that the Globes are announcing later than the Academy and we won't have the usual precursor instigators, we may see a huge dissonance between the Oscars and other awards groups this year.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

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