Best Actress

There are two main rivalries in the 2013 Best Actress race. There’s a head-to-head showdown between Silver Linings Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence and Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain. These ladies even have a supposed rivalry brewing between them. By all accounts, they are the ones to beat. There’s also that oldest versus youngest match-up between Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva [oldest] and Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis [youngest]. And then there’s The Impossible’s Naomi Watts.

Hopefully there will be an upset so this Oscars 2013 don’t prove to be too boring. Though the Oscars do lean toward the predictable…

Will any of these actresses go down in history with a bombastic speech, featuring a line akin to “You like me! You really like me!” or suffer some sort of horrendous wardrobe malfunction on the red carpet? Will there be a deluge of tears that goes down in history? Only time will tell. Hopefully the chosen lady is somewhat well-deserving of her award and at least has a good stylist.

Here are the nominees with my predicted winner is in red:

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Jessica Chastain Zero Dark ThirtyJessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Why She Was Nominated

In Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain is almost the onscreen surrogate for director Kathryn Bigelow as she literally directs all the action in the film. Her character puts elaborate, risky plans into motion, and watches with an intense “take charge” attitude as others put her plans into motion. Chastain’s character is the driving force in the film and your eyes are simply drawn to her intensity and near-insane drive. She stands up to the highest of higher-ups in the CIA and achieves her goal of hunting down Bin Laden, though she meets the end result not with an “America, fuck yeah!” fist pump, but rather subtle, quiet tears that beg the question, “what now?”

Why She Might Win

Chastain has a track record of being an Academy darling, with last year’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Help. And while no physical transformation was made for Chastain in this film, her turn in Zero Dark Thirty also shows her acting range from this previous “sweeter” role – her Maya is the ultimate in strong women, as she singlehandedly leads the charge to take down Bin Laden and remains as tough as nails while doing so. She also won the Best Actress awards at the Golden Globes (Drama) and the National Board of Review. After all, she is “the motherfucker who found this place.”

Why She Might Not Win

Kathryn Bigelow got snubbed for a Best Director nomination this year, which doesn’t bode all that well for Chastain, perhaps hinting at the fact that Oscar voters aren’t all that receptive to the Bin Laden-killing drama. Also, the film’s controversial torture scenes might not have sat well with the usually prudish Academy, who seem to prefer high budget schmaltz more akin to something like Shakespeare in Love.

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Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings PlaybookJennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Why She Was Nominated

As Tiffany, the tough-as-nails, reformed nymphomaniac in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence sparkles. She makes an extremely flawed character the obvious choice for the male lead, and shows a lot of acting range onscreen, as she can transition from sad, to happy, to romantic, and everything in between. Lawrence was nominated in 2011 for Best Actress for indie darling Winter’s Bone, so while’s she’s only 22 years old, she’s already got street cred with the Academy.

Why She Might Win

Silver Linings Playbook is beloved by most who see it… not by me, however. Though I am in the minority – Silver Linings Playbook is just the feel-good drama that the Academy likes and was designed to please the masses. Even I can’t deny that it was extremely impressive to see Miss Lawrence win over Robert De Niro in a screaming match – she out-toughed Travis Bickle! Lawrence plays Tiffany with a maturity well beyond her years and is able to create a character that would have been one-note in the hands of a lesser actress. Lawrence’s performance has also been getting buzz since the film debuted at this past Toronto Film Festival, so it’s fairly safe to assume that a lot of the voters might have made the effort to see the film. Like Chastain, she also won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Comedy), so the face-off continues!

Why She Might Not Win

While she was already nominated, Lawrence is only 22, and voters might possibly think that she is too young to garner a win just yet. She also remains pretty throughout the film, and voters have a track record of liking transformative, make-under performances. And the fact that she is Katniss Everdeen is probably not in her favor…

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Emmanuelle Riva AmourEmmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Why She Was Nominated

People are making a big deal over Emmanuelle Riva’s nomination, because at 85, she is the oldest-ever Best Actress nominee. What people should be talking about is her absolutely staggering performance as Anne, a music teacher who suffers from a series of debilitating strokes that cause her to slowly lose her independence and dignity. Riva offers a physical performance that is unparalleled to any I have ever seen – somehow she is even able to not move one side of her body – and can convey so much with just her eyes, which only the best of actresses can do.

Why She Might Win

The Academy loves a good physical performance, as demonstrated from Daniel Day-Lewis’ win for My Left Foot, and Riva’s performance in Amour is certainly transformative, as her physical condition gradually worsens over the course of the film and she is able to perform the process of becoming paralyzed. If we’re going to play to the lowest common denominator, it would be newsworthy if the oldest-ever Best Actress nominee won. Though even if we’re not, Riva’s is arguably the strongest performance out of this lot of Best Actress nominees, and based on a quality standpoint alone, Riva should come home with a statue.

Why She Might Not Win

All that being said, the Academy might not have seen Amour – and if they are judging from director Michael Haneke’s backlog of projects, they might be put off by his notoriously provocative filmic oeuvre. While on many top ten lists, Amour is also somewhat of a rough watch – it puts the viewer through the emotional wringer, and perhaps voters would lean toward a more “feel good” performance.

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Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern WildQuvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Why She Was Nominated

Cast in Beasts of the Southern Wild when she was only 5 years old, Quvenzhané Wallis demonstrates an acting range far beyond her years as Hushpuppy, a little girl who learns survival instincts from her ailing father as her Louisiana community, “The Bathtub,” is poised to be destroyed by flooding. Currently 9 years old, she is the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee, and yet she was able to carry an entire film and be in almost every frame.

Why She Might Win

The Academy sometimes likes to award first-time film performances with awards – think Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God. In her debut performance, Wallis is able to emote effectively, conjuring up tears with natural aplomb and commanding mythical creatures, Aurochs, to bow down to her little feet. Her performance is fearless, and rather impressive for such a little girl. Also, much like Riva, it would be a good media opportunity if the youngest-ever nominee won.

Why She Might Not Win

Taking Wallis’ lack of experience from another angle, with this being her first film role, and being only 9 years old, the Academy might not think that Wallis has exactly paid her dues. She also has a big career ahead of her – she is going to appear in Steve McQueen’s upcoming Twelve Years a Slave and is in talks for the Annie reboot – so perhaps her credits need to stack up before future awards consideration. Beasts of the Southern Wild was beloved by festival audiences, but might prove to be too “arty” and surreal for the average voter to truly get behind.

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Naomi Watts The ImpossibleNaomi Watts (The Impossible)

Why She Was Nominated

As tsunami survivor and family matriarch Maria in The Impossible, Naomi Watts spends most of her time onscreen suffering from a slew of injuries and writhing in agony in a hospice. Though nary an actress suffers as well as Watts, who really sells a pain derived from both injury and not knowing the whereabouts of the bulk of her family. Watts lets vanity fly out of the window in this film, as she appears soaking wet, bloody, and matted with dirt throughout most of it, and as noted, the Academy does usually appreciate a good make-under.

Why She Might Win

There’s that make-under angle. Also, she has been nominated twice before in the Best Actress category – for Mulholland Dr. and 21 Grams – so there is that possibility that the Academy might think she is due.

Why She Might Not Win

However, The Impossible is an average film at best, and while Watts is extremely effective, she does get overshadowed by the performances of her Best Actress cohorts since their films are more critically lauded. Disaster films tend not to make much of a blip nowadays. It’s fairly assumed that Watts probably won’t win an Oscar for The Impossible, though this nomination should certainly add to her resume.

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Read more about The Oscars


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