Oscar Predictions: Best Actress Edition

With the 85th Annual Academy Awards airing Sunday, it’s time for fellow Big Hollywood contributor John Hanlon and I to make our predictions in the actor categories.

Last year was an incredible time for movies, showcasing dozens of fantastic performances from Hugh Jackman’s heartbreaking portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables to Jennifer Lawrence’s ailing widow who falls in love again in Silver Linings Playbook.

Every year The Academy never fails to snub a few outstanding performances, this time around including Anthony Hopkins’s transformation into the legendary Alfred Hitchcock in Hitchcock and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s startling performance of an alcoholic in Smashed. But even so, there is a competitive list of nominees in every category, maybe even more than ever before.

Here’s a look at each of the nominees up for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress this year.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Amy Adams - Acting alongside such strong performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, I was afraid Adams was going to get overlooked at The Academy this year. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Although I don’t think she has a chance of winning, it’s marvelous that this versatile actress was recognized for her haunting performance as the cult leader’s wife, Peggy Dodd.

2. Sally Field - I was not a huge fan of Lincoln. Sure, the cinematography is beautiful, Daniel Day-Lewis is great and it’s a Steven Spielberg film, but all that can’t make a near-perfect looking film boring as hell. However the one factor that made Lincoln enjoyable for me was Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Her intense portrayal of Lincoln’s wife expresses the obsession and grief Mary went through after losing their son, Willie.

3. Anne Hathaway - After I heard Hathaway sing I Dreamed a Dream in Les Misérables, I knew I just witnessed the best performance of 2012. Everything about her acting is flawless and even though her character is only in the first half of Tom Hooper’s film, her presence never fades away.

4. Helen Hunt - I was shocked at the John Hawkes Oscar snub for Best Actor, but was more than pleased that Hunt was nominated for her role in The Sessions. Hunt plays a sex surrogate who sees Mark (Hawkes), a man with polio, which has him paralyzed from the neck down. During the course of their four sessions, Hawkes and Hunt develop one of the most memorable and interesting relationships in film in 2012. Although Hawkes is the film’s true star, Hunt is on an equal playing field with her brilliant and heartbreaking performance.

5. Jacki Weaver - Certainly the most surprising nominee in this category, Weaver is nominated for her performance of a mother coping with her son’s return home after his stint in a mental institution in Silver Linings Playbook. One of my favorite films of 2012 and the only film this year to have a nominee in each of the acting categories, Playbook benefits from strong performances and a Weinstein Company backing.

Who Should/Will Win: Hathaway has won every award under the sun, and her performance as Fantine is the best of any actor in 2012.

Best Actress

1. Jessica Chastain- In Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain plays Maya, a CIA operative in search for the world’s most dangerous man: Osama bin Laden. Chastain has the greatest character arc of any performance in 2012, and it’s marvelous what she accomplished in the two hour and 30 minute movie that takes place over a 10-year time frame. Her performance is much more internal than many of the other nominees in this category, which is why it could be overlooked.

2. Jennifer Lawrence - Lawrence won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy and the SAG Award for Best Actress because she is absolutely fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook. Certainly one of the best actresses of her generation, Lawrence plays a widow who ends up falling in love with Bradley Cooper’s flawed character. What I loved most about her character is how unpredictable and funny she was. The film's best scenes feature her and Cooper; their chemistry is impeccable.

3. Emmanuelle Riva- Riva is the oldest actress to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar - she turns 86 on Sunday. Amour, nominated (and sure to win) in the Best Foreign Language Film category, focuses on an elderly couple whose love is tested when Anne (Riva) falls ill. Riva took home the BAFTA award for Best Actress. I appreciated Amour, but the film is not Best Picture worthy, nor is her performance Best Actress worthy. If the Academy picks Riva, it will be an award for her overall career. 

4. Quvenzhane Wallis - In a story of courage and love, Wallis plays Hushpuppy, a 6-year-old who is struggling to come to terms with her father's declining health in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Wallis leads Benh Zeitlin’s film in an optimistic and startling performance. She also is the youngest actress ever to be nominated in the Best Actress category.

5. Naomi Watts- In one of the most physically demanding performances of the year, Watts plays a mother who was torn apart from her family by the devastating tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004. Based on the incredible true story, The Impossible is one of the more emotionally charged films of the year. Watts and young actor Tom Holland lead the film as mother and son who are searching for the rest of the family.

Who Should Win: Chastain for her incredible performance as the CIA operative who led to the capture of Osama bin Laden.

Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, a huge indicator for an Oscar win. She also has Harvey Weinstein’s backing, which is a goldmine in itself.

The 85th Annual Academy Awards air at 8 p.m. EST Sunday on ABC.


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