Another round of living legends vs. young ingeues
Ann Dowd, 'Compliance'
Pro: Craig Zobel's queasy moral thriller has been an indie talking point since Sundance, and much of the attention has been focused on Dowd's weathered, watchful and ambiguously sympathetic performance as a fast-food franchise manager unwittingly made complicit in a horrific violation of an employee's personal rights. Even the film's many detractors tend to reserve positive words for Dowd, the kind of established, productive but largely unheralded character actress the Academy's acting branch sometimes look kindly upon; with a few critics' awards on her mantel – not hard to imagine – she could be this year's Melissa Leo.
Con: Dowd's performance occupies a very gray area between lead and supporting role; even if her campaign explicitly takes the supporting route, it's easy to imagine some of her admirers voting for her in Best Actress instead, potentially splitting her vote. And that's assuming small-time distributor Magnolia even gets voters to watch this difficult, divisive film – one that could have many swiftly hitting the 'eject' button in disgust.
- Guy Lodge