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This year’s Best Actress race is stacked. I’d be willing to listen to arguments that the five ladies involved are the single most talented grouping ever assembled in a Best Actress category. They’re the equivalent of last year’s Best Supporting Actor field. Let’s just do a quick round up. Meryl Streep has eighteen (yes, eighteen) Academy Award nominations. Judi Dench has seven. Cate Blanchette has six, Adam Adams is rocking five and Sandra Bullock, arguably the most famous person in the category, is bringing up the rear with two. That’s a stacked list of competitors, and it tells us we can’t just flippantly write anyone off.
Remember that speech Sally Field gave about everyone liking her? Well, at some basic level, that’s actually true. There has to be wide respect, admiration and some degree of like for a person to be singled out by her peers, and the more nominations someone has, the more overtly that’s true. As such, all of these women have a puncher’s chance of walking away with a gold statue, but from where I’m sitting some of them have a little bit more of a realistic shot than others.
Here’s how this year’s Best Actress field shakes out…
DARK HORSES: Judi Dench And Meryl StreepGod, it feels weird putting these ladies at the back of any line. They’re among the most respected actresses in the history of Hollywood, but unfortunately, neither is in a movie this year that really connected with the general public. Despite nominations for both her and co-star Julia Roberts, August: Osage County failed to secure a Best Picture nomination and hasn’t made a huge dent at the box office. It also hasn’t really earned a lot of buzz, possibly because it turned out to be a whole lot more serious than many fans imagined when they first heard "family drama with Julia and Meryl".
Philomena, not Philomania, poses a few of its own problems for Dench. The film did nab a Best Picture hat tip, but to this point, it hasn’t even crossed $30 million at the domestic box office. It’s also very heavy with religious themes, which doesn’t rule it out but will be a no-no with certain voters. In a tight race like this in which every vote matters, having a film that’s somehow a little controversial but also not widely seen is a bad formula to accrue enough votes.
CONTENDERS: Amy Adams And Sandra BullockWith all due respect to George Clooney, Gravity is mostly a one woman show, and considering it made an insane amount of money and won fans over across the world, you would think Bullock would be trending as the frontrunner. That’s just not the case, though. Apart from a few great monologues and some wonderful physical acrobatics, there aren’t a ton of showy moments, and with this level of competition, that hasn’t allowed her to nudge ahead of the pack, let alone distance herself in any way. Maybe if she had a few more chances to interact. Maybe if so much of the movie wasn’t life or death practicalities. Regardless, she should be really proud of herself for what she accomplished.
Amy Adams has a little bit of momentum thanks to her Best Actress in a comedy or musical nod at the Golden Globes. Obviously, American Hustle isn’t a straight up comedy, but it offers enough laughs to be classified as such at that ceremony. With everything combined together and all the other women suddenly added as competitors, however, getting over the hump is a hell of a lot harder. Besides, a case could be made that the sheer wealth of brilliant performances in that film, three of which were also nominated, serve to soften her brilliance a bit by obscuring how incredible she really is.
FRONTRUNNER: Cate BlanchettBlue Jasmine is a difficult film to sit through and not because it features director Woody Allen’s typical dialogue rife with sophisticated references and witty, high class retorts. No, Blue Jasmine is a difficult film to sit through because at its core it offers viewers a woman that’s rapidly spiraling out of control. It offers a selfish, manipulative and oblivious former socialite who is every bit as hard to root for as she is honest and complicated. Thanks to Allen’s tribute at the Globes, there has recently been quite a bit of talk about how complicated and fascinating Woody’s women typically are. I’m not going to say Jasmine is the best he’s ever given us, but in Blanchette’s capable hands, she deserves to be at least mentioned.
At this point, it’s easier to count the number of Best Actress awards Blanchett has lost over the past few months (4) than it is to count the number of honors she’s won (more than 30). Altogether, that’s enough to make her a prohibitive favorite to take home her second statue and first for Best Actress. If you’re filling out a pool and you go with Blanchett, this should be one of your safest categories, but as we’ve found out dozens of times in the past, every now and again defeat gets snatched from the jaws of assumed victory.
To read the other categories, click here.