oscars 2012: a blight of females / an opportunity for others

The Oscar update conversation continues with the ladies, probably the most intriguing group to speak of at this point.  And not necessarily for good reasons.  With such a seemingly weak field, the agents of those first-half gals and the indie darlings need to get the word out – Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress haven’t been this wide open in seven years.

BEST LEAD ACTRESS: As you can tell from my choice of photo representation, I’m not buying into the Jennifer Lawrence FTW rah-rah just yet.  I can’t seem to wrap my head around the up-and-comer winning so soon and for a fairly light-hearted looking performance.  But Silver-Linings Playbook has clearly cemented her as a top contender.  I’m going with Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) for the No. 1 slot today, though, as she just seems like an actress that Oscar wouldn’t be afraid to double-dip for.  If she goes lead for playing the wife of the legendary director, I could see her being Lawrence’s biggest competition.  And let’s be honest, with a lineup this sparse, if the Silver-Linings folks wanted to, they could pull a Julianne Moore for Lawrence, stick her in supporting and she’d be a feasible possibility for The Hunger Games at this point… who thought that would actually be a possibility by year’s end?  It seems to me the women who should be upping their campaign game to pounce on the sickly wildebeest that is Best Actress 2012 are Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), and Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea), all of whom have turned in lauded performances that would never be discussed period unless the possibility bank was this dry.  And really, how much fun would it be to see a wrench like that thrown into the mix?  And though Haneke’s leading lady Emanuelle Riva (Amour) should surely be a possible nominee, I think in a weak field the Academy will opt for names over accolades.  Honorable mention before running down the Top 10 lineup: Kristen Wiig (Imogene) and Barbra Streisand (The Guilt Trip) both have very different comedies coming up here soon, though I doubt either will gain much traction with Oscar.
Surefire Nominee: At this point, the only clear-cut one is Lawrence for Silver-Linings
Nearly There: I’m thinking Helen Mirren shouldn’t have too much trouble showing up here unless the movie is panned, and Keira Knightley is looking more and more like a solid bet for Anna Karenina
On-Paper…: I’m thinking Marion Cotillard could truly slip in for Rust and Bone, despite it’s not traditionally Oscar-accessible premise
Today’s No. 5: I’m thinking Beasts of the Southern Wild will receive a glorious year-end push, in which case I’m giving the edge to Quvenzhane Wallis at this stage, though…
Nipping at Their Heels: Naomi Watts is looking more and more like a follow-up nod is finally coming for The Impossible, something I never would’ve seen coming even a month ago
It’s a Strange Kind of Year, So: Don’t be surprised to see Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) or Meryl Streep (Hope Springs) enter the conversation as potential spoilers
Rounding Out the 10: Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson) and Maggie Smith (Quartet) will need some assistance with the tepid reception their respective films are receiving, but I’m guessing they’re still among the top qualifiers

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Though the field isn’t quite as empty as in the leading category, the supporting females aren’t looking to certain either.  To me, the clear frontrunner is Amy Adams (The Master), who’s been logging away quite the nomination count in her pre-40s.  The role is just effective enough that I think she might be able to take this one.  I suspect her biggest competition is Helen Hunt (The Sessions), particularly if the movie gains some BP traction, which I would not at all be surprised by.  As for those waiting in the wings – i.e., the ones that should consider launching a campaign stat – we have Ann Dowd (Compliance) who’s courting the Animal Kingdom vote with her character-actress-turned-best-in-show performance, Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), who could ride recent goodwill to a default nomination, Vanessa Redgrave (Song for Marion), whose film may be too feel-good for more serious tastes, and Frances McDormand, who has both Moonrise Kingdom (established success) and This Must Be the Place in play. My guess is that Anne Hathaway has abandoned any Dark Knight Rises potential in favor of her musical turn in Les Miserables, and if the casts are well-received Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock), Pauline Collins (Quartet), Annette Bening (Imogene) and Kerry Washington (Django Unchained) could capitalize on an opportunity.
Surefire Nominees: Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) and Helen Hunt seem like locks at this point, unless the latter two prove less than effective with audiences and critics
Rounding Out the Five: Though beyond the top three it’s not super clear where we stand, my current guesses are Jacki Weaver, who could continue David O. Russell’s recent success with acting nominees, for Silver Linings-Playbook and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Close Calls: I’m thinking The Paperboy will play better stateside, particularly with the insurmountable buzz attached to its craziness, so Nicole Kidman is a distinct possibility. And Olivia Williams (Hyde Park on Hudson) and Sally Field (Lincoln) each have famous ladies to play – both are probable bio nods if the films manage to connect come December
And the Rest…: Helena Bonham Carter, I suspect, will have a more difficult time than many assume in gaining this nomination – plus, will Great Expectations be seen stateside in time?  My 10th choice is tricky, but I’m going with Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas), who appears to have the most intriguing role in the epic whatever-it-is… and if you’re an unknown to American audiences, this is the category to land in

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