2016 Oscar Circuit: Best Actress in a Leading Role

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actress_2006Welcome to our annual Oscar Circuit series, our deep down look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2016. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your predicted winners in the comment section too!

One year after we saw veteran and five-time Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore stand on stage for her compelling performance in “Still Alice” from Sony Pictures Classics, a turn that steamrolled its way all the way to the Dolby Theatre, it almost seems clear cut again for another particular lady.  As far as the Oscars are concerned, they’ve typically loved the up and coming, hot women of Hollywood in a role that either challenges them physically (we used to call this simply “de-glam”) or one that hits the right pocket of the Academy at the right time in their careers.  This year, we have only one previous winner in the lineup with some “overdue” women in the hunt for their first dance with Oscar.

Let’s look at the last ten winners before we get into it:

2014 – Julianne Moore for “Still Alice”
2013 – Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine”
2012 – Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook”
2011 – Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady”
2010 – Natalie Portman for “Black Swan”
2009 – Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side”
2008 – Kate Winslet for “The Reader”
2007 – Marion Cotillard for “La Vie en Rose”
2006 – Helen Mirren for “The Queen”

cateblanchett_carolCate Blanchett – “Carol”
(The Weinstein Company)
Seventh nomination (Two wins; “The Aviator” [04′], “Blue Jasmine” [13′])
OSCAR SCENE: “We’re not ugly people Harge.”

As a veteran actress like Meryl Streep has racked herself up nearly twenty Oscar nominations over her illustrious career, I always keep one eye on what person has the possibility to challenge her record in the future.  On the best day, I think Cate Blanchett will challenge that record in the future.  The way Oscar has embraced over the past few years has suggested she is firmly on her way, at some point, to a third Oscar on her mantle.  Of her six previous nominations, you can argue she was #2 every time, save for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” in a year she was previously double nominated.  The Weinstein Company has made the compelling case for Blanchett once again.  In a banner year for Lead Actresses, Blanchett remained a staple, hard-placed #3 and as we’ve seen in the past, when two top contenders are asserting themselves strongly, that can offer an opportunity for someone to come up the middle.  Look at races like Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) besting out Jack Nicholson (“About Schmidt”) and Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York”).  One thing sorely against Blanchett is that she’s only won a single award all precursor season (a win from the Online Film Critics Society).  That’s a hard hurdle to overcome.

brielarson_roomBrie Larson – “Room”
(A24 Films)
First nomination
OSCAR SCENE: “You’re going to love it…the world.”

It’s spectacular to see an indie actress like Brie Larson come out the gate with a strong, embraced performance by the Academy.  This is years following her breakout turn in “Short Term 12.”  Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” ran the gauntlet during the early precursors, with wins from the National Board of Review and the Audience award from the Toronto Film Festival.  The rest was history and with the film scoring a surprise nomination for Best Director, it nearly locked up her trip to the stage.  Besides winning Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG awards, she has worked the circuit like a pro, being humble, likable, and allowing the power of “Room” to work its magic on the voting community.

jenniferlawrence_joyJennifer Lawrence – “Joy”
(20th Century Fox)
Fourth Nomination (1 Win for “Silver Linings Playbook”)
OSCAR SCENE: ::selling on HSN::

We realized the power of Jennifer Lawrence with Oscar voters this year as she overcame the middling reviews for her latest collaboration with David O. Russell.  Weirdly enough, it was one of her strongest outings yet and it resulted in her fourth Oscar nomination.  In this race, where Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan have been the talk of the circuit, along with the “narrative” not quite being there for her to win her second Oscar so soon (paired with lack of campaigning), she’s attending the party of the year just as an observer.  If there’s one certainty in any major category, it’s that the talented JLaw will not be winning her second Academy Award this year.

charlotterampling_45yearsCharlotte Rampling – “45 Years”
(IFC Films)
First Nomination
OSCAR SCENE: The final dance.

It’s virtually a miracle that veteran actress Charlotte Rampling, along with IFC Films, was able to overcome some big names and studios to score this Oscar nomination.  Dynamically resonate and even more heartbreaking from beginning to end, Rampling lights the screen ablaze, with a career that’s spawned decades.  Sadly, any chance of her winning ended when she failed to garner a BAFTA nomination, which for the life of me, can’t figure out why.  She would have needed something like that in order to pull the upset.  Add that with no Golden Globe or SAG love, then that pretty much cements her place in the race.  But I would leave this open for a potential upset, and I’m using the word “potential” very loosely.

saoirseronan_brooklynSaoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn”
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Second nomination
OSCAR SCENE: Reading her sister’s letter.

The beauty and talent of Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan has been well-noticed and even more appreciated over her young career.  She beat out some stiff competition for her work in “Atonement” and found herself in the running in 2009’s “The Lovely Bones” despite mixed reviews.  Ronan achieves her best performance yet in John Crowley’s sensationally executed film “Brooklyn” and has been a staple on the awards circuit all season long.  The journey began in January 2015, when the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where Ronan emerged as the (very far out) frontrunner for the year.  The film moved through many of the fall festival lineups such as the New York Film Festival, and the momentum continued.  Sadly, the film underperformed on Oscar nomination morning, but when the critic’s awards were handed out, she garnered many “runner up” notices to competitor Brie Larson, along with a fair share of her own prizes.  With all that said, Ronan’s ride to the Oscar stage has been thwarted by the rise of Larson and her film “Room.”  Any particular shot at the gold was lost when she failed to pick up any of the televised prizes, along with her film only nabbing itself 3 nominations.  I’m afraid her time will come in the near future.

WILL WIN: Brie Larson (“Room”)
SHOULD WIN: Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”)
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Olivia Wilde (“Meadowland”), Blythe Danner (“I’ll See You In My Dreams”)

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CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS FOR ALL CATEGORIES:

PICTURE |DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR |SUPPORTING ACTRESS |ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY |ADAPTED SCREENPLAY |ANIMATED FEATURE |PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT