Sunday, October 26, 2014

Early Fall Predictions: Best Actress

Doesn't it seem like every year brings the same story about the Best Actress category? Mainly, the lack of major contenders and a category that almost every year seems to be deemed "weak". I'm sorry to say that after Cate Blanchett's impassioned speech about more leading roles for woman (they do make money! The world is round, people!), that it doesn't seem like the studios were paying attention. Well, compared to the many Best Actor hopefuls that get mentioned (and have a possibility of getting in), the Actresses don't ever seem to get the same attention. There's already been some great performances from some talented women this year, but they seem to be pretty much ignored as we head into Oscar movie season. And sadly I don't have any inspired choices of who will emerge as the final 5 nominees. In fact, my choices for who I will believe will make it in pretty much aligns with what everyone else seems to agree. Let's just hope we have some shake-ups as the season progresses otherwise it's gonna be a long, predictable couple of months.

Let's first start off with the two sure things. One a four time nominee that has never won before and the other a previous winner that hasn't had the most stellar career post-win.

In a just world, Julianne Moore would by all accounts already be a two-time winner (for Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven), but the Academy passed her over in favor of others all the previous times she was nominated. And she hasn't even received a nomination (despite some traction for her work in The Kids Are All Right and A Single Man) since her double nominations of 2002, showing signs that perhaps the Academy had cooled in their affection for her. But after winning the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her go-for-broke performance in the messy/whackadoo Maps to the Stars (which will now receive a Oscar-qualifying run, but is way too out-there for be a serious contender), the buzz on Moore began. Then, almost out of nowhere, she became the front-runner for not only a nomination, but to win the whole damn thing with her film that debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, Still Alice. Moore plays a linguistics professors that finds she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Word out of the festival was stellar and it may be too soon to get our hopes up of finally being able to say Academy Award winner Julianne Moore, but a nomination seems pretty secured.

Let the 2014 Reesurgence begin! After winning the Best Actress Oscar for 2005's Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon's career, littered with well-meaning prestige films that didn't pan out and just plain awful romantic comedies (let us never speak of This Means War ever again), hasn't exactly inspired audiences, let alone the Academy. But starting with a small turn in last year's Mud, Witherspoon seems to be getting her footing again and with this fall's Wild (which she also produced), Witherspoon's journey to become a respected actress again seems to have come full circle. Playing Cheryl Strayed, the real-life woman that walked the Pacific Crest Trail (and wrote the book that the film is based on) to find herself. Witherspoon is said to give an amazing performance having already gained acclaim when the film showed in Toronto. And the film's director, Jean-Marc Vallée, certainly knows a thing or two about reviving the career of a floundering star, he directed last year's Dallas Buyers Club with Matthew McConaughey which won the actor the Best Actor Oscar and solidified the great McConaissance.

After reading the best-selling novel Gone Girl, I knew that whoever took on the part of Amy Dunne in the film adaptation would be sure to get some awards attention - the role is too juicy not to. Director David Fincher, after passing on bigger name stars, went with the relatively unknown Rosamund Pike, and, sure enough, Pike's star has risen and Oscar talk has begun. Pike, who has excelled in other films in supporting roles (her work as a not-as-dumb-as-she-seems blonde in An Education is a subtle delight), but I was lukewarm to her actual performance and to the film in general. But the film is already a huge hit and has inspired countless internet articles debating the notion of the "cool girl" and whether or not the film is misogynist. People are going to be talking about it for a long time and I think it'll be too big for the Academy not to include her in the Best Actress category.

After winning an acting award at Sundance for her performance in Like Crazy, big things were expected for new "It" girl, Felicity Jones. But critics and awards committees weren't exactly crazy for the film and it ended up being pretty much a non-starter. Jones has worked steadily since but hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. However with this fall's The Theory of Everything, opposite Best Actor hopeful Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, Jones plays Hawking's first wife Jane, who met Hawking during university and stuck by him throughout his illness. The film is actually based on the memoir that Jane wrote, making her side of the story just as compelling as the well-known genius's and the Academy has always had a soft spot for the long-suffering wife role. Most of the early praise seems to be for Redmayne's physical transformation, but Jones seems like a safe bet for a nom alongside him for her steadfast performance.

The fifth spot seems to be a bit up in the air. There's two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain for her work in the 80's set mob thriller A Most Violent Year. She could easily make the fifth spot as she also has the indie drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby which has admirers and the sure-to-be-big Nolan blockbuster Interstellar out at the same time to raise her profile. Her best shot seems to be AMVY, but votes may split over her other films. Another outside possibility is Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard in Belgium's Best Foreign Language Film entry Two Days, One Night, which she is (once again) brilliant in. But for some reason, the Academy seems reluctant to give the actress a second nomination and this film may be too small and too foreign to make an impact.

So I'm giving the fifth spot to an Academy favorite (she's already received 5 prior nominations without a win), with a film that people have already seemed to have lost faith in, sight unseen. But I still feel that Amy Adams in Tim Burton's Big Eyes, as the real-life painter of creepy/kitschy children with crazy huge peepers, could still make her way in. People are saying the film must not be very good since it's completed and hasn't been viewed at any film festivals, but with Harvey Weinstein behind it, I think he'll be pushing Adams big time in Dec. Adams is clearly liked by the Academy, so for now I'm still giving her the nom. Although a win doesn't seem as likely as it once did, since it seems that Julianne Moore may have come in to take over her overdue-for-a-win story arc...we shall see.

My Predictions
Amy Adams Big Eyes
Felicity Jones The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore Still Alice
Rosamund Pike Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon Wild

My Favorite Best Actress Performances (of what I've seen so far this year)
Marion Cotillard The Immigrant
Marion Cotillard Two Days, One Night
Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin
Gugu Mbatha-Raw Belle
Mia Wasikowska Tracks


  1. I'm on the fence about Adams. I think the other four are locked, but everything about Big Eyes looks so awful, and the reviews are just terrible. Can she survive it all? I know that Harvey will try his hardest...or will he? He may give up entirely, and if he does then Adams is done for.

    1. there are reviews for big eyes already? yeah, i'm not super confident about adams, but no one else has really emerged at this point. she's definitely vulnerable, so we'll just have to see if chastain, blunt, or (god forbid) swank can deliver.