Oscar Guide 2013: Best Actress
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
The race for Best Actress this year started out typical: it was thin. That's not a knock on the performances but really a knock on the kinds of roles open to women in this day and age. That dearth frequently yields a lackluster showing for the category, not that there aren't other great performances worth looking at. The problem is, those great performances aren't usually the sort that tickle the Academy's fancy.
By the end of the season, it got tighter. The supposed frontrunner first got some serious competition from a leading lady few saw coming, while things started percolating for a foreign film hopeful at just the right time. Meanwhile, performances nominated elsewhere from the likes of Helen Mirren ("Hitchcock") and Marion Cotillard ("Rust and Bone") were left by the wayside.
The nominees are…
I wasn't as shocked as most with Cotillard's snub, and indeed, found it puzzling she kept reaping benefits while co-star Matthias Schoenaerts kept getting passed over. I had, however, hoped "Anna Karenina" star Keira Knightley might stir something up, because it was a great performance. Alas, it never happened.
While one young starlet was having the road to Oscar paved for her by the media after the Toronto Film Festival, the campaign behind Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty" was beginning to see an opening. And boy did they take it, as talk of the work started circulating before those first big press screenings in late November, and soon it was obvious why. And there was a narrative built in, about a strong-willed female protagonist in this era. She landed the lion's share of the critics' prizes, culminating in a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. Then things started to level off, however, and now, oddly enough, it would be a bit of a surprise if she managed to win the Oscar.
Part of the reason that tapering-off occurred is that the media rediscovered Jennifer Lawrence as her film "Silver Linings Playbook" continued to expand in theatrical release. She showed up on "Saturday Night Live" (where, depending on whose opinion you get, she may have done more harm than good) and made lovely speeches at the SAG Awards (where she beat out Chastain) and Golden Globes (where she won in a comedy category devoid of Chastain). Indeed, Lawrence and Chastain have each won head-to-head twice in the serious precursors, but Lawrence -- whose film is nominated for four acting awards -- was chosen by her fellow thespians and otherwise has the most heat of the two at the moment. However...
…while the first time Chastain and Lawrence faced off with "Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva, Chastain walked away with a victory (at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards), the only time the trio has squared off in an industry awards race, it was Riva who came out on top (at the BAFTA Awards). Since the Oscar nominations announcement I have seen a clear line to victory for Riva, and admit there may be some bias involved (because really, how does any other performance in this category compare?), but not so much that it's blinding. And it played out with the Brits. "Amour" is a film many Academy members were late to, but they had time to get there and given the measure of the breeze, as well as Sony Classics' maximization of Riva's availability, it could spell a great moment for the actress on her 86th birthday.
Quvenzhané Wallis has lit up the circuit since way back in the snow-blown days of Sundance 2012. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" hit like an A-bomb at the fest, was picked up by Fox Searchlight and survived all year long to land a number of key nominations. One of those was a surprising showing for Benh Zeitlin in the Best Director category. So there is passion for the film, and one wonders, frankly, with that slug-fest going on above, whether the vote could squeeze out a win for this 9-year-old. It would make her the youngest performer to ever win an Oscar, beating out Marlee Matlin's 21 years by a longshot. It's a pipe dream, but fun to consider.
So all of this means Naomi Watts, the lone representative at the Oscars for the film "The Impossible," can probably just sit back and relax on the night of the 24th. However, take note: she has a LOT of support in Hollywood. She gave an incredible performance, one of physicality and emotional distress in a film that has lovers and haters. She had some heavy firepower in the nominations stage with big actors stumping for her and even got a shout-out on the People's Choice Awards from Robert Downey Jr. But this will all just make for a fun scrapbook entry in the future, because the competition is too thick in this category for her to bring it on home. Right?
Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”)
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”)
Should Have Been Here: Keira Knightley (“Anna Karenina”)
What are your thoughts on this nail-biter of a category? Are you going with the BFCA winner, the SAG winner or the BAFTA winner? Or are you anticipating a stunner? Have your say in the comments section below!
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
Let Streaming Genie help you.