Sizing Up: Best Actress

Is this the weakest category of the year? The newest installment of the series takes a look…

I’m back once again ladies and gentlemen to do some more Sizing Up! This time around I’m going to be tackling the somewhat slight Best Actress field. For many, this is the worst category of the majors this year and for some the hardest to figure out, especially in terms of a victor. The ultimate winner won’t be of my concern too much now, but I’m seeking to try and make sense of the category and see which ladies can actually get to the final 5. Lots can change between now and the nominations, but this is where I think things currently stand, and it’s certainly a rather fluid list now. At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how this matches up to the eventual slate of nominees, since so much is sort of guesswork with Best Actress.

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

These are a group of leading ladies that I’d say are 100% out of the race, regardless of their work and the quality found therein. Some are excellent in films that have no chance of being included in the field, and others just didn’t live up to the expectations people had for them earlier on. There are plenty of candidates, of course, but the most notable ones for me are Amy Adams for Trouble with the Curve, Toni Collette for Jesus Henry Christ, Julie Delpy for 2 Days in New York, Greta Gerwig for either Damsels in Distress or Lola Versus (had Frances Ha decided to come out this year, that would have been a more likely nomination for her), Maggie Gyllenhaal for Won’t Back Down, Kathleen Turner for The Perfect Family. Some of them were thought to be contenders, but now…not so much it seems. In Gerwig’s case, she just doesn’t have the right film hitting this year, so stay tuned for her candidacy in 2013.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This first serious grouping consists of 10 females who are not out of the race this year, but have a rather long road to take if they want to really be in the thick of it at all. They either have subject matter that could be problematic, as is the case every year, or just don’t seem to have the right traction yet for awards attention. By and large here the quality of their performance isn’t being called into question, so that’s a plus. Some of them are slightly bigger contenders than others, but for me I’m pretty much inclined to bet against them all right now, with perhaps a tiny exclusion or two. The actresses that fit this sort of bill are as follows:

Emily Blunt- Your Sister’s Sister
Penelope Cruz- Twice Born
Viola Davis- Won’t Back Down
Rosemarie DeWitt- Your Sister’s Sister
Anna Kendrick- Pitch Perfect
Melissa Leo- Francine
Aubrey Plaza- Safety Not Guaranteed
Britt Robertson- The First Time
Barbara Streisand- The Guilt Trip
Rachel Weisz- The Deep Blue Sea

A select few of these have better chances than others of breaking away from the pack and moving towards a more realistic shot at Best Actress, but I’m less than confident about them all. A long shot case could be made for either of the ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ ladies, perhaps a few people will be looking to make it up to Viola Davis, but not nearly enough. I’d love to see Britt Robertson recognized, but I’m mostly delusional to think she’d break through at this moment for such a small and under-recognized film. In short, when it comes to these women, I’m skeptical at best and dismissive at worst. They all are going to need lots and lots of help to make any sort of dent in the Best Actress race. A few of these contenders could have been more realistic if their movies had done better, but alas…

The “Second Tier” Contenders

These particular actresses here are more solidly in play for a nomination, but have some moderate to serious question marks that I’d like answered about them before moving them up a notch. I’d say that there will be at least a few from this list that make it closer to the big day with hopes of hearing their name called, but most will no doubt fade away as well. There are 10 of these particular performances that would like to be considered big time contenders. I don’t see them as big time ones just yet this season, but like I said, they’re not amazingly far off. The ones that I see in this light are:

Halle Berry- Cloud Atlas
Jessica Chastain- Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Garner- Butter
Anne Hathaway- The Dark Knight Rises
Rashida Jones- Celeste and Jesse Forever
Zoe Kazan- Ruby Sparks
Laura Linney- Hyde Park on Hudson
Melanie Lynskey- Hello I Must Be Going
Leslie Mann- This Is 40
Maggie Smith- Quartet

I actually do kind of think that, much like the previous categories and previous years of this series, that there’s a version of this year’s race where some combination of these 10 women could make up the ultimate Best Actress field, but there’s still another dozen females to come with far better chances, so that kind of shoots that theory to hell. That puts these females in an odd position where they need to distinguish themselves in some way more so than usual. Some will, but most won’t. My best guess is that Jessica Chastain has the biggest chance to emerge, since she’s hot right now, but her role could easily wind up being Supporting. The big question mark here is if an indie film is able to push its leading lady forward, such as Zoe Kazan or Melanie Lynskey or if a studio goes in big for someone like Leslie Mann. They all have a fighting chance in the race, but we shall see. Keep an eye on Chastain more than anyone else here, but again, it all depends on what category she fits into. We just might wind up seeing her again in a future installment of this series…

The “Pole Position” Contenders

These here are the dozen most likely contenders for Best Actress in my opinion. Not surprisingly, my personal Oscar predictions consist of a grouping of some of these gals. They each have a lot going in their favor, and seem to be sitting quite pretty for lots of citations during the precursors. They’re also in some of the more often mentioned films so far this year for the category, and I don’t exact that to change. Which 12 women are they, you might ask? Well, they are the following:

Marion Cotillard- Rust & Bone
Judi Dench- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Elle Fanning- Ginger & Rosa
Keira Knightley- Anna Karenina
Jennifer Lawrence- Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Mirren- Hitchcock
Emmanuelle Riva- Amour
Meryl Streep- Hope Springs
Quvenzhane Wallis- Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts- The Impossible
Michelle Williams- Take This Waltz
Mary Elizabeth Winstead- Smashed

The general line of thinking has almost no one locked here. The closest ones are Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence will be helped by a campaign for The Hunger Games that mostly will just help her out here with this role. They’re the safe two to pick for wins in the field right now, but mainly because they’re the closest things to locks we have and possibly the only two people think can actually win at this moment. Not far off is Quvenzhane Wallis, but her age could be a factor keeping her from a nod, or else she’d be sitting pretty too. Also in the hunt seriously are Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Naomi Watts, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. They’re the top contenders and likeliest to get the other nominations, though watch out for Emmanuelle Riva and maybe even Meryl Streep. Elle Fanning would have a better shot if Wallis wasn’t in the race, but still is in contention, and the likes of Judi Dench and Michelle Williams are the least likely of this dozen, but still distinct possibilities if certain things break their way. These are likely the only people truly in line to compete for the 5 slots available, but in a year like this, who knows what will happen?

Most of the aforementioned actresses have little to no chance at being nominated, but as I said, there’s about a dozen solid contenders now, give or take a few, and this year is “weak” enough for a surprise or two. I’m sure that the list will be reduced soon enough through precursor awards, though we could also see it increase as the aforementioned precursor season might just reveal some new and hopefully exciting contenders for our predicting pleasure. The one thing you have to be sure of is this though…it’s going to be a very interesting Oscar season, particularly with the Best Actress race!

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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