The Best Actress race has a clear front-runner, but because of some recent gaffes, there is a possibility of an upset.
The front-runner is clearly Jennifer Lawrence as the disturbed young widow in Silver Linings Playbook. Lawrence, who burst on the scene just over two years ago, is now a major star, having attached herselt to huge franchises in The Hunger Games and the X-Men. She is glamorous, but she is also not attuned to the ways of discretion. When she won the Golden Globe, she said, “Wow, I beat Meryl,” which was a quote from a film but ruffled feathers. Then, on Saturday Night Live, she talked “smack” about her competitors, which was funny but nervy. This award is not usually given to the very young–Lawrence is only a shade older than the youngest winner, Marlee Matlin.
There are two possibilities for upset. Jessica Chastain also won a Golden Globe for the tireless CIA agent in Zero Dark Thirty. She is a rising star, appearing in about ten films in the last two years, but the role just doesn’t seem meaty enough. It would be rare indeed for a woman to win for a role that has no love interest (other than Miss Daisy) and it may be hard for voters to recall a specific scene. Then there’s all that torture stuff, which I’ll discuss further in the Best Picture post.
Emmanuelle Riva won the BAFTA award for Amour, which may make sense for Brits, who are more likely to appreciate a legendary French actress. Riva is best known here for appearing in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour, but is far from a household name. However, if voters turn away from Lawrence and Chastain, their votes could go to a role that requires a lot of physicality (she plays a stroke sufferer) and very little glamour. Riva is the oldest nominee in this category’s history, which may get her some votes from the blue-rinse set.
Two that stand no chance are Naomi Watts, as the embattled mother in the Indian Ocean tsunami in The Impossible, and Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Watts is one of my favorites, and I feel confident she’ll win an Oscar someday. I’d be tempted to vote for her here just for the hell she must have gone through, being in water most of the time. The film just didn’t catch on, though, and against tough competition she won’t win.
Wallis is the youngest ever nominee in this category, so the nomination is the victory. Part of the reason why it was thought she wouldn’t get nominated–that a performance by a six-year-old is the work of a director, not the performer, may work against her here. She sure dominated that picture, though.
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Could win: Jessica Chastain
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should have been nominated: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed