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Best Actress: Nathaniel's Ballot & Oscars

It's time to get back to our Film Bitch Awards. I've 18 days to finish everything. Give me strength! 

I was rooting for Brie Larson all season, but Oscar had bigger stars in mind

When it comes to Oscar's Best Actress field this year I'd rank the performances in this order without hesitation: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) > Adams (Hustle) ≥ Streep (August) > Dench (Philomena) > Bullock (Gravity). But as usual my own lineup differs quite a lot. I looked beyond the twelve titles that voters were considering nominating for Best Picture and then conveniently dropping onto their ballots in each and every other category. I also had to consider shoeless Emma (Mr Banks) who obviously just-missed Oscar's cut-off since they were all about their ol' standbys this year (this year's amalgam of all five contenders has been nominated 7.6 times which is probably a statistical "most" record in any acting category). So in addition to Oscar's conversation topics I took long hard looks at the Before... franchise's Julie Delpy again (she was nominated right here in 2004), Jane Adams and Paulina Garcia in the little seen arthouse gems All the Light in the Sky and Gloria respectively, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), too. And then there were the fresh faces (well, fresh before the spaghetti sauce and sobbing) like Adele Exarchopoulus and familiar young stars like Brie Larson (Short Term 12) and Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) who are just now coming into what feels like their true power as screen stars. I even considered Melissa McCarthy in The Heat, she of the perfect line readings, who was quite unjustly robbed of a Golden Globe comedy nomination this year. 

It was a tough call. I tore my imaginary hair out. In the end, as always, you want six or seven nominees but you conly get five. And here they are with my capsule comments... The Best Actresses of 2013.

P.S. If Oscar voters choose anyone other than Cate Blanchett, it's going to be so catastrophic for my mental health that you'll see me on a park bench somewhere in 2014 chattering away to no one in particular as I replay the events of 2013 endlessly on a loop, torturing myself as to how it all went so terribly wrong.

P.P.S. The Best Actress Oscar Page now has "how they were nominated?" theorizing and a reader poll

P.P.P.S. Like TFE on Facebook and follow Nathaniel on twitter. Why haven't you already? Lot of exciting plans for 2014 including more interactivity with you.

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Reader Comments (49)

My Ballot has a lot in common with your top 5 (and finalists)
1- Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
2- Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
3- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
4- Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
5- Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKareem

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Adams (Hustle)
Bullock (Gravity)
Dench (Philomena)
Streep (August)

That's mine without hesitation.

Roll on Oscar night

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjazz

I had the good fortune of seeing Gravity in its IMAX 3D re-release last weekend...I wasn't prepared as to how much I would love Sandra's performance...she's my runner-up to Cate.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMB76

Juliette Binoche, "Camille Claudel 1915"
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Adèle Exarchopoulos, "Blue is the Warmest Color" (Winner)
Paulina García, "Gloria"
Greta Gerwig, "Frances Ha"

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDPD

BTW, from what I've seen, I would nominate Cate, Sandra, Gerwig, Streep, Larson, or Brit Marling for The East.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMB76

LOL at Streep's "4% Shady release schedule preventing people from truly thinking about it"

I know these percentages are not scientific, but curious why you think Bullock's nomination is only 1% because of the role. While I think much more highly of her performance than you do, I think the role pays a much bigger part than that in getting the nomination. All the talk comparing her to Sigourney Weaver and the nature of carrying a massive sci-fi hit like that probably came into play even more than the performance itself.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Oh, also, my best actress ballot that I submitted for our Team Experience awards:

1. Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Colour)
2. Hadas Yaron (Fill the Void)
3. Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
4. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
5. Suzanne Clement (Laurence Anyways)

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

@Amir were you not a fan of Cate in Blue Jasmine?

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZV

I would've nominated Larson, Delpy, Adams, Thompson and Bullock, and I would've given it to Larson.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDback

ZV- I was! She's my second favorite of the nominees after Adams. If I could extend my personal ballot to 7, I would have included her after Greta Gerwig.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

If Cate loses again... then all hell breaks loose.

If one of them wins against Cate, chances are there won't be nominated again (just ask Gweneth, Jennifer Hudson, Marion Cotillard, and Tilda!)

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Infamous

Love the photoshop work there. Great picks too, even though Brie Larson (and Short Term 12) did absolutely nothing for me.

My ballot would be Adams, Blanchett, Delpy, Exarchopoulos and Garcia

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZV

My ballot:

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Judi Dench, Philomena
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Love your ballot.. I'd put in Exarchopoulos and Bejo instead of Larson and Gerwig. Great year for actressing but Cate towers... I love what you said about the details in her performance. My fave bit was in the scene with Sarsgaard on the balcony when he asks about her husband; she takes a beat and stops as if considering to tell the truth, and then the lies come pouring out. She's a genius.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

My ballot right now:

1. Scarlett Johannsson, Her (Like I have said, I put voice work on an even keel with more conventional "full" performances and this work is EXCELLENT. Just, completely sterling.)
2. Brie Larson, Short Term 12 (Giving the tie between her and the above (right now) was tempting, but I had to give the slight edge to the performance that did just as much, with less available)
3. Rinko Kikuchi, Pacific Rim (I'm not entirely surprised that this wasn't on your full ballot, but I enjoyed this and AM actually slightly surprised it wasn't cited at all. (Meryl Streep in August: Osage County above it? Really?) Her Babel work is looking more and more like a wrongly nominated skid-mark that's not reflective of her ACTUAL talents, which are tilted more toward things like this or Bang Bang in The Brothers Bloom.)
4. Amy Adams, American Hustle (Sometimes, it's just reacting more strongly to a performance that certainly isn't bad.)
5. Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha (She's excellent in the first half in articulating the non-narrative aspects of the piece, but it's clear that she's not exactly built for narrative acting when the second half ramps up the plot and resolution side of things. Unlike Nat, I'm actually interested to see what she can do on a network sitcom (hopefully one shockingly obtuse and lightly observational for big TV as opposed to conventionally plotty), even if we "lose" her to TV.)

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

No Adèle Exarchopoulos, no sale! ;)

My Top 5 of the moment is Adèle Exarchopoulos, Greta Gerwig, Paulina García, Danai Gurira, and then either Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Hadas Yaron is hanging on to the last spot. But I won't finalize anything until I get a chance to see Laurence Anyways, I Killed My Mother, and Broken Circle Breakdown.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Blanchett is a certain to win Best Actress but the Oscars & Bafta choices just baffle me by ignoring other great performances.

My 5 are:
Exarchopoulos (winner)

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersuzy

I feel that people are a bit unenthusiastic about the Best Actress line-up this year because it is made up of past winners and frequent nominees, and favours women over the age of 35. I kind of think that this is unfair as this is how the Best Actor \ Supporting Actor nominations are played out year after year. So many average performances have been nominated because they have been given by perceived legends. I just feel there are huge inconsistencies when it comes to awards/gender/age. For example, there's no way a 9 year old boy would get nominated for Best Actor (like how Q. Wallis was nominated for Best Actress), and the Academy are hardly handing out Oscars to many males in their twenties and thirties (which they often give to women - and then ignore them when they are over 45). Basically, even though I preferred other performances, I'm pleased that this field of women represents longevity and respect for older actresses.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAbs

Poor Exarchopoulos, not even here!

Have you seen Juliette Binoche in Camille Claudel 1915? Wonderful work.

Add Blanchett, Adams and Delpy and you have my nominees.

My gold medal? Exarchopoulos.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

This was a rather great year where I counted around 21 performances that I would like to consider. Ultimately my final five has come down to:

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Amy Adams, American Hustle
3. Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
4. Juliette Binoche, Camille Claudel 1915
5. Brie Larson, Short Term 12

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Great choices, Nathaniel! I'm really excited to see Paulina Garcia in 'Gloria.'

It may sound ridiculous, but I really don't think that Cate Blanchett is a lock to win. I have a feeling that Amy Adams will upset, and while she would arguably be the best winner we've had sine 2007, I still prefer Blanchett's work.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I am terrified that Cate might get her Oscar taken away Viola Davis-style. Davis wasn't sweeping like Blanchett, but the closer Oscar gets, the more irrational my fears...

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

Well, since my list is composed of Argentinian actresses/performances from an Argentinian movie (that people not even here have seen), what's the point of sharing? It's not like I've seen every movie in the world to judge more objectively (like, what performances am I missing in, like say, Bangladesh or Egypt or Austria, that not even made festivals?) so I'll rank what was nominated for the Oscars.

Leading actress:
01) Streep
02) Dench
03) Bullock
04) Adams
05) Blanchett

Leading actor:
01) Ejiofor
02) Dern
03) McConaughey
04) Bale
05) DiCaprio

Supporting actress:
01) Nyong'o
02) Roberts
03) Squibb
04) Lawrence
05) Hawkins

Supporting actor:
01) Leto
02) Hill
03) Abdi
04) Fassbender
05) Cooper

Also, I need more time to think about it, those are too many performances, and opinions vary over time.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

No way in hell Blanchett is losing.

Davis didn't even carry her movie, has less screentime than her supporting co-nominee and was facing the most respected actress of the last 40 years who was considered very overdue, playing a historical figure in a biopic that she carried herself. Davis was the better one, but it's easy to uinderstand why she lost.

Blanchett has a very different situation. Her main competition is an actress that is never recognized as a leading one and has to fight her flashy female co-star to shine. It's a terrific performance, but not showy, not that central and everybody thinks she was lucky to be nominated, since she arrived in 5th in this race.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The percentages are back!! Haha, those used to be one of my fave parts of Oscar season. Love you, Nat!

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRax

1) Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
2) Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
3) Brie Larson, Short Term 12
4) Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
5) Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Thompson missing the Oscar shortlist was the biggest crime of the season.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJS

My Team Experience Best Actress Ballot looked like this:

1. Greta Gerwig
2. Julie Delpy
3. Cate Blanchett
4. Amy Adams
5. Meryl Streep

Duking it out for the fifth spot were (in order): Zhang Ziyi, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Acker, Julia Roberts, and Carey Mulligan. Now that I've seen Gloria, Paulina Garcia probably would have been in my sixth spot.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I have missed so many of the leading female performances this year, but of the ones I've seen, my top 5 would be Blanchett, Gerwig, Adams, Delpy and McCarthy.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Though I haven't seen many of the indies or Streep, I believe this is a very strong lineup in a category that usually has space fillers. All of the nominees are deserving, but my heart breaks there wasn't room for Thompson. What a phenomenal year for actresses. Cate has to win this for her stunning work...if she doesn't, AMPAS will never live it down. And shouldn't.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

My personal choices would be: Louis-Dreyfus, Delpy, Larson, Blanchett, Exarchopolous. With Thompson and Gerwig in the runner up slots.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBenji

My ballot:
1. Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

This year was truly an embarrassment of riches. So tough to choose!

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

The absence of Adele is troubling...

But… sigh… to each his own. Lovely write-ups as always.

My Ballot:

Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE
Adele Exarchopoulos, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Brie Larson, SHORT TERM 12

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan S

I think this is the most your ballot has differed from Oscar in recent years.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

If anyone upsets Blanchett (unlikely) it will be Dench, not Adams. I actually think Dame Judi has a good shot to upset at BAFTA.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Nathaniell's ballot in 2003 for leading lady

Keaton, Leigh-Curtis, Thurman, Johansson and Evan Rachel Wood I think (1 for five with Oscar)

His 2004 actor line-up was furthest away (no overlap, though he had Owen as lead).

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I've been so upset about the whole Woody/Mia thing derailing Cate's chance to get this Oscar. In fact, it all seems so calculated it makes me think that some PR firm is behind it all. Don't they do crazy smear campaigns like this all the time?

Come on Cate, and come on Academy!

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

I actually think Sandra Bullock may be the most likely to upset Blanchett... they love her, and Gravity will probably win Best Picture. I hope we will never find out, though.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I still think Judi Dench can win this thing.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

There's no way Bullock is a 2-time Oscar winner.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Ryan -- it was tough for me to leave off Adele and Emma. They were easily 6th for me. I kept trying to include them but eventually just couldn't live without any of the other five.

Abs -- i love Oscars lineup for that reason too. I just wish that those performances would have happened in a weaker year so i could get totally behind it :)

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

My ballot at the moment (with Blue Is the Warmest Colour to see next week) would go

1. Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
2. Juliette Binoche, Camille Claudel 1915
3. Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
4. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
5. Meryl Streep, August Osage County

With Louis-Dreyfuss, Adams and McCarthy

I have to say the order of the Top 3 depends on the mood of the moment. Each of those performances is genius

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I thought Adele's is one of the great performances in film history -- I know that seems like a hyperbole, but that was what I thought both the times I watched that film. I know a lot of people say that about Blanchett's as well (and arguably that's true), so I'm going to be happy with her getting the Oscar -- we all knew she was eventually going to win a second one, and it's a good thing that it will be for her career-best work.

My ballot:
01. Adele

And then (in order of preference):
02. Gerwig
03. Blanchett
04. Larson
05. Louis-Dreyfus

... although at other times I might switch one of them with Delpy.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSid

Loved the mention for McCarthy. She's absolutely hysterical in her movie. I do, however, want to hear what your specific thoughts are on Thompson. I find her performance a too broad and too caricature, so I'm interested to hear what you saw.

Here's my ballot:

Amy Adams, "American Hustle"
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Enough Said"
Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"
Shailene Woodley, "The Spectacular Now"

FYI, I loved Larson's performance, and probably would have included her in my ballot if it weren't for [SPOILER ALERT] that ridiculous confrontation she attempts to make with Jayden's father...and with a bat! That scene rang so false in so many levels. I understand that Larson does a lot to not make the scene feel truncated and bombastic, but it still feels like the script corners her so cruelly. [SPOILER END]. But I love the other 95% of her performance.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

BVR, re Larson, I had the exact same opinion. And there were a couple of other sequences as well that strained credibility, which no actor could sell authentically.

Also she was laying it on a bit thick in some of her pensive-foreshadowing closeups. But this was partly an issue of direction/camera placement as well.

All that said, there was definitely a lot to love/be impressed by in the performance. She was just phenomenal in her quieter, more transitional scenes.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran


Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Suzanne Clement, Laurence Anyways
Tallie Medel, The Unspeakable Act


February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Jazz -- i just realized you said your own ballot matches Oscar's EXACTLY. does this happen to you often? do you have the same taste or is this just a strange year?

BVR & GORAN -- that scene is definitely the most questionable in the movie yes. But the rest is so good it's too nitpicky for me to worry about it.

February 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel, I can't remember the last time we had a year this good, there were so many great female roles.
I think this is one of the rare years that my choices actually match the Oscars.
If i could add two more, I'd add Thompson and Dreyfus.

i'm looking forward to the Baftas tomorrow and of course seeing if Cate will walk home with the Golden boy in two weeks time

February 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjazz

I love Amy Adams sooo much and i think every single one of her four nominations are well deserved but .... how the hell did she get a best actress nomination over Emma Thompson's amazing work is beyond me. I just downloaded Saving Mr Banks, which is getting a release here in France on March 5th (three days after Oscars, I just had to see it before the ceremony to know if Emma was really that snubbed), and i was in tears when Emma's P.L. is crying during the premiere. She was just so touching, so funny, so subtle, I had much more fun watching her than Amy, who was great in American Hustle but whose character wasn't half as interesting as PL Travers, even if as an actress Amy was more surprising than Emma. Even if I have yet to see Meryl's work I really think that Amy stole Emma's nomination (and it pains me to admit it).

February 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClement From Paris

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