In my opinion, the Best Actress race has four locks and another five hopefuls looking to steal that fifth slot. But there are no frontrunners for the win that I can see from this distance. Of the four locks, three of the names are arguably the most familiar of faces. The least familiar of the locks will be Viola Davis, a sure nominee for her role as Aibileen Clark in The Help. Davis deserves recognition, and her strong performance is the real anchor in the film. Michelle Williams, seemingly nominated for an Oscar annually these days, will pick up a nomination for playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. I am not quite sure if it’s her year to win, but if she keeps accumulating these nominations her time will surely come soon.
Of course, most years you don’t get far from the Best Actress pool before you find Meryl Streep. Streep will undoubtedly get a nomination for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, but the weakness of the overall film will keep her from winning; same thing goes for a Best Actor hopeful we’ll get into later. Rounding out the four surefire nominees is Tilda Swinton, a regular these days much like Michelle Williams (though Swinton did break through a few years ago with a win for Michael Clayton). Swinton stars as Eve, the troubled mother who is the focus of a disturbed son in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Swinton is a strong actress, and might very well be the frontrunner at this point.
And now we have a handful of hopefuls with only one slot left. Longshots include Charlize Theron for Young Adult, Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia (though I wish Dunst had better than an outside chance because she is captivating in the role). Any of these three women would be a surprise nomination. This final slot appears to be a fight between a rookie and a seasoned vet. Rooney Mara may very well grab the fifth nomination for nailing down her role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But I do think she will be edged out by cagey nominee vet Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs. It’s astounding Close has never won – she was nominated four times in five years in the 80s – and I think the Academy might sneak her in.
Viola Davis – The Help
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
If there is ever a category where we get the winner and everyone else, it is the Best Actor category. Daniel Day-Lewis, Jamie Foxx, Colin Firth… most of the time the statue is all but decided by the time the nominations are released. I don’t see anyone head and shoulders above the pack this year. If anyone is like that at this point in the process I would point to George Clooney for The Descendants. Clooney is an Academy darling, and his role as Matt King, the conflicted father and businessman in Alexander Payne’s family drama has gotten the most publicity thus far. I don’t think he deserves to win the Oscar, but that’s for another day.
Clooney’s good buddy Brad Pitt seems to be a sure bet now, playing Billy Beane in the crowd-pleasing Moneyball. Having recently seen Moneyball a second time, I firmly endorse Pitt as a nominee. The Pitt-Clooney dynamic is sure to draw in the bigger ratings, something the Academy struggles to find year in and year out. But for my money, it is Michael Fassbender, the rising star in the field, who deserves both the nomination and the win for Shame. Fassbender exploded on the scene this year with a handful of diverse roles. And as Brandon, a man crippled by his sex addiction and shut off from any true human contact, Fassbender dominates a tough film with a compelling and inwardly dominating performance.
Much like Meryl Streep in the Best Actress field, Leonardo Dicaprio will find himself with a nomination for playing the title role in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. But the mediocrity of the film will keep him seated when the winner was announced. I had high hopes for Leo this year; I thought J. Edgar would finally get him the statue he deserves. Alas, the film was a letdown. There is decidedly less mystery revolving around the fifth and final spot here. Gary Oldman has a shot for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as does Michael Shannon for Take Shelter. But I am certain Jean Dujardin will get the fifth spot for playing silent film star George Valentin in The Artist. This is the film with the most momentum at this point, so he seems to be a safe bet for filling out the Best Actor category.
George Clooney – The Descendants
Brad Pitt – Moneyball
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Leonardo Dicaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
NEXT TUESDAY LET’S LOOK AT BEST DIRECTOR. NEXT WEDNESDAY, IT’S BEST PICTURE TIME…