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Oscar nominations will be revealed on the 24th.  As arbitrary as the nominations can sometimes seem, there’s definitely method to their madness.  Over the next week, we’ll dive into the potential nominees in each of the big eight categories.  This time around: Actress.


  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Davis and Streep, who both received Oscar nominations for their work in The Help (edit: I meant Doubt, of course.  Thanks, Sarah!), are the perceived frontrunners here.  Much of the coverage of the category, to this point, has centered around the two of them jockeying back and forth to get in the lead.  I don’t believe Michelle Williams has missed a meaningful precursor nomination and she already has two Oscar nominations.  And not only is she right in the Academy’s age and beauty wheelhouse, but she’s recently decided to aggressively go sexy.


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  • Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It has been a strange year for the last couple of spots in this category.  There’s a clear opportunity for someone to step up a seize a spot, but no one’s publicists have been able to position an actress to secure a nomination.  Swinton’s Oscar win for Michael Clayton suggests she has sizable support in the Academy.  Here she’s dealing with an apparently challenging movie that people had to really actively want to see.  Coming into Oscar season, Glenn Close seemed a sure bet for a nomination as a respected Oscar actress (she has five nominations to her name) who, after years of hard work, finally got her passion project made.  Plus, she’s playing a dude.  I haven’t seen it yet, but word is that she’s facing the same battle as most of the actors on the bubble in that race: her character is very restrained where Oscar tends to have a better appreciation for showy.  Rooney Mara fits the requirements of Oscar ingenue, well, except for how punk her character is.  After initial box office returns had The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo DOA for Oscar, it has consistently fought back with guild nominations.


  • Charlize Theron, Young Adult
  • Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
  • Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist

I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen a bigger push for Theron, who already has an Oscar win and another nomination.  But Oscar, it would seem, has a bias against super attractive women playing insufferable characters, plus Young Adult hasn’t found anywhere near the appeal Juno did.  I still refuse to believe that a third Olsen sister just magically appeared this year.  She posted strong stuff, but I think the film was a little too indie for her to make the cut.  Melancholia has really put the maxim about there being no such thing as bad publicity to the test.  Director Lars von Trier started things off by saying he understood and sympathized with Hitler (then retracted his apology for the comments) and Dunst later suggested she wouldn’t had been a good fit for von Trier’s prior film because her boobs were too big.  So, yeah.  This category, to me, doesn’t seem like the right place to honor Wiig, but if it leads to a greater acceptance of comedies, I can live with it.  I talked about Bejo in the supporting actress category, for which she has been campaigned, but Oscar voters have upgraded categories in the past.


  • Sara Forestier, The Names of Love
  • Zoe Saldana, Colombiana
  • Emma Stone, The Help
  • Saoirse Ronan, Hanna
  • Natalie Portman, The Other Woman
  • Ginnifer Goodwin, Something Borrowed
  • Mandy Moore, Love, Wedding, Marriage
January 2012
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