On Sunday evening, the 83rd edition of the Academy Awards, airing on ABC and co-hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, begins at 8:30pm EST at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, with ten nominees vying for the top two acting prizes for actresses.
Who’s likely to go home with the Oscars as best actress and best supporting actress?
Through most of the cluttered awards season, the latter category looked like a cakewalk. Then came the “ads that subtracted” — more about which later.
As things stand now, unfamiliar Australian actress Jacki Weaver, scoring her first nomination as the scary crime-family matriarch in Animal Kingdom, is squarely in the “just happy to be nominated” category.
And Helena Bonham Carter, gaining her second nomination as supportive Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech, doesn’t really harbor much of a hope of coming away with the cherished prize.
As for the uncharacteristically hard-edged turn by Amy Adams as a boxer’s bartending girlfriend — her third nomination in this category over the last six years — it was immediately perceived as the second-best female performance in The Fighter.
And fourteen-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld’s role as the plucky avenger in the western True Grit — which has certainly gotten plenty of attention and could easily be seen as a lead role — puts her in a position to pull an upset in a category that often springs surprises on prognosticators.
But about those ads…
After snaring awards in just about all the preliminary competitions, the severely coiffed Melissa Leo, a second-time Oscar nominee for The Fighter, did considerable damage to her hitherto overwhelming chance of winning the Oscar by taking the unusual step of taking out trade-paper ads herself — as opposed to, say, the studio or the film’s producers — promoting herself.
There was an immediate backlash from the Hollywood community to what was seen as unseemly movie-star behavior, which undoubtedly cost her votes. In addition, Adams’ inclusion will drain away some of the votes from Fighter enthusiasts that might have gone to her.
Nevertheless, Leo should still end up with the Academy Award for her ferocious rendering of a manipulative mother in The Fighter.
And if I had a vote, it too would go to Leo.
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As for the best actress category, it shapes up as a two-horse race.
First-time nominee Jennifer Lawrence’s breakthrough role as the Missouri teen searching for her missing father in the little-seen Winter’s Bone has put her on the moviemaking map and indicated a big future for her.
And Michelle Williams’ nod for her disenchanted wife in Blue Valentine gives her a second nomination and assurance that she’s being taken seriously.
Previous Oscar winner Nicole Kidman’s nomination — her third — for her grief-stricken mother in Rabbit Hole is further affirmation of her gifts even though she’s not seen as a serious contender in this particular race.
Which leaves Annette Bening and Natalie Portman.
Bening’s territorial lesbian wife and mother in The Kids Are All Right is her third nomination, and although she very well could make the third time the charm, she is more likely to be the runner-up yet again.
That’s because Natalie Portman (top photo), doing most of her own dancing as the tormented ballerina having a psychological breakdown in Black Swan — her second nomination — remains the front runner for her intense and unforgettable performance.
In a very close call, my hypothetical vote would also go to Portman.
For more on the Oscars, click here.
Reported by Bill Wine, KYW Newsradio 1060.