This is the fifth of seven prediction and analysis articles for the Oscars being given out at the upcoming 85th Academy Awards on February 24th, hosted by Seth McFarlane (full site). This quick article follows the female acting categories of Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. One race is shoe-in lock and runaway victory, while the other is wipe open and filled with history and intrigue.
Like last year, I offer the categories of snubs and happy nominations to go along with a choice of "who should win" and "who will win." This season, I've been doing my due diligence by tracking what movies and people have won the precursor and lead-up awards to the Oscars on my "2012 Awards Tracker" page. For a full breakdown of earlier 2012-2013 award results, please check that page and tab. Enjoy and good luck with your Oscar pool!
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
The nominees: Amy Adams- The Master, Sally Field- Lincoln, Anne Hathaway- Les Misérables, Helen Hunt- The Sessions, Jacki Weaver- Silver Linings Playbook
AWARDS TRACKER (number of earlier award wins): 19- Hathaway, 4- Field, 3- Adams, 2- Hunt, 2- Ann Dowd, Compliance, 1- Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Who was snubbed: Personally, I think the right five women and the right five performances are here. Each of them were excellent, unique, and extremely worthy to be among the final nominees. I might go to bat a little for Emma Watson for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but she was still just the third best performance in that movie after Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman. She was good and gave a great grown-up performance after a decade on Harry Potter, but it wasn't strong enough to bump any of the finalists. With octogenarian Emannuelle Riva earning a place in the Best Actress race over her countryman Marion Cotillard, there's an older audience that gives a lot of respect for Maggie Smith's supporting turn in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I can understand that sentiment, but, again, not enough to bump any of these five. The same goes for SAG nominee and Oscar winner Helen Mirren for Hitchcock.
Happy to be there: While the right five are certainly here, Jacki Weaver is probably the biggest surprise when it comes to data and the prior award winners. Unlike her four fellow nominees who have all won some form of a Best Supporting Actress award this year, Weaver has not. Just as her Silver Linings Playbook characters say about her, she's the glue that holds a crazy family together. This is a great honor for her and I'm glad she made the cut.
Who should win and will win: This one is a no-doubter for both the "should" and "will" statements. Just look at the landslide 19 award wins from the Awards Tracker. Les Miserables's Anne Hathaway knocked the ball out of the ballpark and is one of he surest wins of the night. Sure, Oscar voters are probably only seeing her one showstopping "I Dreamed a Dream" number, but, honestly, that's all it took. That's the living definition of a nailing a big moment in the movies. Helen Hunt was daring and good, but has been better. Weaver is happy to be there and Adams is becoming a bit of a Meryl Streep. This is her fourth Oscar nomination in her stellar young career. She will win (and probably multiple) someday, but The Master isn't the role to do it right now. Hathaway, in her second career Oscar nomination, is young and popular in a category where the "It Girl" tends to always win over the veterans. This is her moment and this her spot. If Hollywood wants to send a message and buck the youth trend and avoid a little bit of Hathaway's Taylor-Swift-like shocked award acceptance fakery, their best hope is Sally Field, an old favorite who had a career comeback year between Lincoln for the critics and The Amazing Spider-Man for the masses. Field is a deep longshot. This is a Hathaway certainty.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
The nominees: Jessica Chastain- Zero Dark Thirty, Jennifer Lawrence- Silver Linings Playbook, Emmanuelle Riva- Amour, Quvenzhané Wallis- Beasts of the Southern Wild, Naomi Watts- The Impossible
AWARDS TRACKER (number of earlier award wins): 12- Chastain, 12- Lawrence, 7- Riva, 1- Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz, 1- Helen Hunt, The Sessions, 1- Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea
Who was snubbed: The surprise inclusions of both the youngest ever and oldest ever Best Actress nominees sure shuffled the deck of discards. You can make a lot of cases of Best Actress nominees in another deep year of candidates. Three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams could have easily had her fourth nomination for Take This Waltz, a challenging bi-polar part before Silver Linings Playbook made it cool. Even though it was a little-seen performance, Rachel Weisz, a prior Oscar winner for The Constant Gardener, could have made the field for The Deep Blue Sea and her suicidal wartime London Blitzkrieg lover. The annual Meryl Streep performance was in Hope Springs, which was good, but not to the Oscar caliber of her other recent performances. If I had a vote, my snub was Marion Cotillard in the foreign language film Rust and Bone, where she plays a slowly revitalizing amputee victim. She was stupendous in that role and deserved to be here.
Happy to be there: As I kind of already hinted at, the youngest ever nominee and the oldest ever nominee in this category should be astounded by their respective accomplishments alone. Throw in Naomi Watts too, but the real names are Wallis and Riva. Quvenzhane Wallis stole many hearts in Beasts of the Southern Wild. The camera (and probably Seth McFarlane's jokes) will find her often and she should savor every minute. To be mentioned and nominated on this stage and scale is really something for a rookie her age and a movie this small and independent. The statement has been made. Much of the same can be said for Riva. A longtime favorite in France, her appearance here too is a big deal. If the two young frontrunners (see next segment) duking it out split their own votes, Riva could pull the shocker and she would get one of the biggest standing ovations of absolute respect you'll ever see. Like everything about Amour, her acclaim and performance is gaining traction. Even if she should be "happy to be there," she's the biggest dark horse threat.
Who should win: As you can see from the Awards Tracker data, this is a neck-and-neck race between two extremely talented young performers with bright futures. Both Jessica Chastain (in drama) and Jennifer Lawrence (for musical/comedy) can boast Golden Globe Best Actress trophies, but only one can win. When it comes to who should win, I think Jessica Chastain put forth one of the most powerful and strong female performances in years with Zero Dark Thirty. She gets my vote. Without her character's determination and lens for the story, Zero Dark Thirty is an aimless history lesson. She represents the strongest voice in the year's most important film. This is the kind of strong female role Streep did in her youth. With Chastain's outstanding resume (The Help, Take Shelter, Tree of Life, Lawless, Coriolanus, and more) over the last two years, she has earned this respect and deserves this award. But, you know what, she's not going to win. Like everywhere else I've talked about this, the buzz has cooled too quickly on Zero Dark Thirty. If she doesn't win, here's the biggest shocker of what that means. If my predictions hold true of Zero Dark Thirty losing the original screenplay Oscar to Django Unchained and Chastain loses here in Best Actress, when you combine those losses with Bigelow's snub at Best Director and its fading chances at Best Picture, there's an overwhelming scenario where Zero Dark Thirty would be completely SHUT OUT from winning ANY Oscars. I sure wouldn't have believed that back in December. I think it's going to happen.
Who will win: I guarantee you this race, maybe above all of the others, is going to the wire. I think Jessica Chastain, and all of the female strength and resolve she and her role stand for, will get beat by the more kinetic and emotive performance given by Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. I think Lawrence's recent SAG award win over Chastain, voted by her acting peers, is the tiebreaker for prediction and prognostication. Her vibrancy in Silver Linings Playbook sticks with you in a flashier way than Chastain's sharpness. I just re-watched Silver Linings Playbook recently after seeing it the first time back during it's initial November 2012 limited release. In a movie that's really an ensemble showcase with great performances in every corner (fellow Oscar nominees Cooper, De Niro, and Weaver), I realized that, even though Bradley Cooper is the lead and voice, Lawrence is the movie's spark. When she's gets more and more involved, the movie's excitement grows with her. She doesn't have the resume that Chastain does (The Hunger Games is a box office feather in her hat, but not a critical one), but I really think this, like Hathaway, is Lawrence's youthful night of discovery and statement. With Silver Linings Playbook having a nominee in every male and female acting category, they have to win one of them. This is their best shot.
NEXT UP: The male acting categories!