By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With the 86th Academy Awards ceremony only days away, we’re getting ready for the year’s best acting.
That will occur among the four non-winning nominees in each category when they smile appreciatively on the evening of Sunday, March 2nd at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles as they watch someone collect the prestigious and valuable statuette that is, of course, rightfully theirs.
And what this process is for us is an urgent televised spectator sport.
Ah, the Oscars.
But while the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences make their choices of the best work on the movie screens of 2013, let’s call on the Academy of Me, Myself, and I to handicap the races.
We’ll start with the women.
Who should and who will win the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress?
In the Supporting Actress category, three of the nominees really are living out that so-often-insincerely-spouted cliché about it being an honor just to be nominated.
June Squibb’s straight-talking wife in Nebraska and Sally Hawkins’ working-class sister in Blue Jasmine really did bring recognition and acknowledgement that had previously escaped these two fine character actresses. And Julia Roberts, even though she has an Oscar on her mantel – for Erin Brockovich – is more often perceived as a movie star than a screen actress. But her take-charge daughter in August: Osage County brought her right back into the discussion.
Still, none of the three has much of a chance of hearing her name read after the envelope is opened.
Instead, it will be one of the other two nominees.
Jennifer Lawrence, coming off her Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook as well as the lead in the second installment of the commercially spectacular Hunger Games franchise, has so much momentum going in as the brassy wife in American Hustle that, despite the rarity of back-to-back Oscar wins, she may be unstoppable.
But if anyone can stop her, it’s Lupita Nyong’o as the cotton-field slave in 12 Years a Slave. True, it’s the first feature for the Yale School of Drama graduate, but she has done exceptionally well on the preliminary awards circuit.
If I had a vote, it would go to Nyong’o, who deserves it and who should come home with the prize, thus launching an immediate high-profile career.
In the Best Actress category, the hopefuls will have to overcome a prohibitive favorite.
Meryl Streep, continuing to pile on the nominations to record levels (18), is characteristically superlative as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family in August: Osage County. But her Oscar total will remain at three.
Similarly, we take Judi Dench’s excellence for granted in Philomena as a real-life woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption, as she gets a seventh nod without much chance of emerging with an Oscar.
Amy Adams, by contrast, with her fifth nomination for her con artist in American Hustle, has an outside chance of pulling off an upset.
But that doesn’t appear to be true for Sandra Bullock, whose brilliantly affecting work in Gravity, far surpassing her Oscar-winning turn in The Blind Side, seems to have gotten lost amidst all the attention justifiably paid to the film’s technical prowess.
Which leaves the statuette in the hands of Cate Blanchett for her rendered-penniless socialite in Blue Jasmine.
If I had a vote, it would go to Bullock, but the Oscar will go to Blanchett.