Oscar Watch: Why the Best Actress Race Is So Exciting This Year

I’m obsessed with the Oscars. Correction: I’m obsessed with the Oscars when it comes to actresses. Every year I find myself saying, “The Best Leading Actress category this year is craZAY.” I don’t know if it’s a gay diva worship complex, or the prospect of seeing charismatic stars wearing pretty clothing, or if, perhaps, the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role really is somehow the most exciting race year after year.

Regardless of my personal fanaticism… in actuality, seriously no joke, ohmygodyouguys, this year’s Academy Award for Best Actress category is freaking amazing. We are in all likelihood looking at a category of not only five previous winners, but five of the most prominent, powerful actresses in Hollywood. Walk with me.

Cate Blanchett Vogue

Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, featured in Vogue magazine

Cate Blanchett: In recent years, this category has often been about two or three frontrunners battling it out for the win (Portman vs. Bening, Cotillard vs. Christie, etc.) but this year the winner is actually fairly certain. Not only has Cate Blanchett won several of the pre-Oscar awards, the critics are slobbering all over her performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, and yes, she is astonishing in it. She’s one of those accomplished actors who seem like they should have multiple statuettes, but only has one (a decade ago, as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator). If you have no clue how to compete in your office Oscar pool, go Team Blanchett. Plus, just look at the picture above. REASON ENOUGH. She’s gonna look amazing during that acceptance speech – here’s hoping she wears something like this.

Dame Judi Dench

Also Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench

Judi Dench: A lock-in. Her work in Philomena has nabbed her nominations galore, and you can tell from the trailer alone it’s Oscar-bait material. She’s adorable and she’s really good at adorable. Like her fellow Queen Elizabeth buddy Cate Blanchett, she has never won in this category, which seems inconceivable. A Team Dench win, however, is not.

Meryl Streep

Also duh Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, accepting her third Oscar in 2012

Meryl Streep: How can you not? If you asked pretty much anyone to make a list of the five best Hollywood actresses, Meryl Streep would be at or near the top. Her role in Tracy Letts’ screen adaptation of August: Osage County is a juicy one, so her presence on this list has been assured since they announced the movie’s casting. Although critics have given a surprisingly lukewarm response to her wild performance, it would be an outrageous, even unsettling, Oscar snub to ignore the power of the Streep.

Sandra Bullock

Also also Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock, in Vogue magazine

Sandra Bullock: is no slouch. Gravity is expected to have great pull (ha) at this year’s Academy Awards, and one of the highest-grossing Hollywood actresses isn’t going to go down without a fight. Incidentally, Sandy’s Oscar campaign skills were so formidable in 2010 for her extraordinary performance in The Blind Side, she defeated the power of the Streep and – in my mind at least – caused Meryl’s win in 2012, because the Academy felt bad for continuing to pass her over. That campaign was predicated on the idea that a big-box-office comedic star could make a sharp left into more serious territory. Unlike her fellow nominees on this list, Sandra Bullock falls less under the “Actress Heavyweights” category than “Megastar who has proven she can really act,” alongside the Jolies and Roberts-es of Hollywood. But her impressive work up there in outer space is an extension of this shift in Sandy’s career, so watch out. (Personally, I would nominate her for The Heat.)

Emma Thompson

Also also also multi-Academy Award winner Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson: There is talk of other names (see below) because of Saving Mr. Banks‘ somewhat bumpy reception, but I’m including her as my fifth choice because a) she’s Emma Thompson, fabulous actress and human being, b) she deserves a nomination for the glimpses we see of her P. L. Travers in the trailer alone, and c) she fits nicely into this group of highly accomplished screen veterans. Also, it seems the race is very much on: Meryl Streep may have sort of not-really perhaps thrown some shade at her potential competitor earlier this week….

The other contenders: Going back to that imaginary list of the best, Oscar-winning dramatic actresses in Hollywood, Kate Winslet (up for a Golden Globe alongside all these ladies) would undoubtedly be up there. Lesser known names often mentioned in the drumroll up to the nominations announcement include Julie Delpy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and poor Amy Adams, who has been working her ass off for an Oscar in vain, and who certainly works her ass off in American Hustle. In any other year, Miss Amy would have a shot at a nomination or a downright win, but 2013 was an exceptionally stellar year for film, and she just may not be able to jump this hurdle (on January 16, #prayforAmy). They should invent a new category for Actors Who Should Have Won an Oscar Already But Haven’t, and she should be nominated alongside Viola Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Julianne Moore.

My pick:

Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig in “Frances Ha”

It’s not gonna happen. But if I ran the Academy Awards, Greta Gerwig would take home the statue for her gorgeous, awkward, heart-wrenching performance in Frances Ha. It’s a film so scarily relevant to me, I simultaneously want to see it another hundred times and never want to see it again. Most of that is attributed to Miss Gerwig’s astonishingly vulnerable Frances. She’s worth all the Oscars of the five actresses on this list put together.

In conclusion: Diva worship. Actress Heavyweights. Team Blanchett. Power of the Streep. #prayforAmy…. It’s better than Christmas you guys. Merry Awards Season to all, and to all a good night.


2 thoughts on “Oscar Watch: Why the Best Actress Race Is So Exciting This Year

  1. Pingback: Smart Reads: 2014 Oscar Edition | Smart Reviews

  2. Pingback: The Top 15 Looks of the 2014 Awards Season… So Far | Smart Reviews

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