If you had asked any awards season consultant, publicist or pundit last month what the most competitive category was this year, very few would have said best supporting actress. Two things changed all that and changed it quickly. The first was Melissa Leo's increasingly odd behavior (more on that later) and the second was the growing praise for Hailee Steinfeld's performance in the unexpected blockbuster "True Grit." Even Helen Bonham Cater started to be seen as potential benefactor of a potential "King's Speech" sweep. So, in just a few weeks the race went from being a slamdunk for Leo to a wide open contest. Yes, it's amazing how the tide turns in Oscar land.
Keeping that in mind, let's review this year's nominees, shall we?
You probably hadn't heard of her before the nominations were announced, but in Australia Jackie Weaver is an acting legend. She counts famous Aussies such as Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette and Cate Blanchett as fans, but finally got her chance to shine for American moviegoers in the indie thriller "Animal Kingdom." She won't win Oscar, but a consolation prize of finally appearing on Broadway -- a lifelong dream of Weaver's -- may be just around the corner.
It's been a long time between nominations for Helena Bonham Carter, but ditching all the makeup of Tim Burton's films and playing the Queen Mum in "The King's Speech" reminded Academy members just how talented she really is. This year - Carter is hoping to land her first Oscar by benefiting from a groundswell of support for Harvey Weinstein's Oscar friendly drama.
Most critic's felt newcomer Hailee Steinfeld stole the show from her more established co-stars Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in "True Grit." Of course, many competing publicists would snark that the 14-year-old's performance should be in the best actress category. That may be true, but Steinfeld is poised to join Tatum O'neal and Anna Paquin as underage Academy Award winners.
As for Amy Adams, is the third time the charm? Previously nominated for "Junebug" and "Doubt," Adams gave an inspired turn as Micky Ward's future wife in "The Fighter," but has mostly been overshadowed by her co-star, Melissa Leo.
Leo is returning to the big dance after having been nominated in the best actress category for "Frozen River." She's been the presumed frontrunner after winning the Golden Globe and SAG Award in this category, but had something of a public relations disaster after taking the unconventional route of running her own, non-studio sanctioned campaign ads. The problem was amplified by Leo continuing to discuss the ads in interviews instead of simply letting the story fade away. Have a few glamour shots ruined Leo's chances at Oscar glory?
Winner: Haille Steinfeld for "True Grit." Not only is the young star deserving, but Leo's odd behavior may have just been too much for some voters.
Upset Contender: If Steinfeld doesn't win, don't be surprised to see either Amy Adams or Helena Bonham Carter accepting their first Academy Awards.
We'll find out the results when the 83rd Academy Awards are announced this Sunday at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT on ABC. Visit HitFix for full coverage including red carpet galleries, a live blog of the show, best and worst, analysis, red carpet rewind and more.
Other Awards Campaign predictions:
Best Supporting Actor