Following a 3-part Best Picture rundown and a Best Actor roundup, I continue my occasional series highlighting Oscar contenders in various categories by turning to perhaps the most competitive one of all in a very competitive year:
2010 is one of those years when you almost wish the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences could have created 10 slots for Best Actress, just as they did for Best Picture. Usually it’s hard to even fill the Best Actress ballot with five legitimate contenders because of the normal sorry state of strong roles for women, particularly in studio films. But this year there’s clearly something in the water and some performances which, in another year might have actually won, likely will not even end up with a nomination this time around. That’s how fierce this competition is. One key reason could be that some of the top contenders like Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, and Tilda Swinton also took the reins of their projects and moonlighted as producers in order to shepherd difficult material that might never have made it to the screen otherwise. Here’s the alphabetical lineup of hopefuls and their Oscar chances as we head into Thanksgiving:
ANNETTE BENING in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (Focus Features) – Bening is a previous three-time nominee who has lost on two of those occasions to Hilary Swank who is also back in contention this year but hey, no pressure. Bening is a well-respected thesp and Academy insider who reps her fellow actors on the Board of Governors and serves as Secretary. The only thing that matters though is performance on the screen and she knocks it out of the park with a wise and knowing turn as a successful doctor going through a bad patch in her relationship with longtime partner Julianne Moore. OSCAR CHANCE: Blooming. It has seemed like it might finally be Bening’s year ever since the picture opened in early July and Focus is determined to campaign heartily for her. Only problem is she must compete with co-star Julianne Moore , also way overdue (see below).
HALLE BERRY in FRANKIE & ALICE (Freestyle Releasing) – As a woman with multiple personality disorder, Berry pulls out all the stops in the kind of role that screams Oscar! Oscar! On top of that she co-produced this passion project and has doggedly stuck with it even if its less-than-commercial nature made it a tough sell to distributors. Now after toying with getting into the race with this same film last year, Berry feels the time is ripe for a December stealth entry ala Jeff Bridges last season in Crazy Heart. And we all know what happened there. OSCAR CHANCE: There are precious few possibilities for anyone of color in this year’ s contest and Berry is out working it hard for her indie surprise but she’s already got one gold statuette and this film may just be too small to gain much of a following among her fellow actors this year.
ANNE HATHAWAY in LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (20th Century Fox) – One of just a small handful of major studio contenders in the category , Hathaway goes for her second nomination in three years (Rachel Getting Married) and gets to be funny, sexy and poignant as a young woman with early-onset Parkinsons disease involved in a complicated new romance with Jake Gyllenhaal. OSCAR CHANCE: Comedy rarely carries the day here but Hathaway has a couple of killer dramatic scenes too. She’s well liked but so far the buzz level on her Academy chances is pretty quiet. If she gets out there in a big way she may be able to climb into the game. Her SNL stint last Saturday raised her profile but considering the killer competition she needs to move fast. Strong reviews this week and the inevitable babe factor male voters seem to consider in this category could help.
SALLY HAWKINS in MADE IN DAGENHAM (Sony Pictures Classics) – Although she won a Comedy or Musical Golden Globe for Happy Go Lucky she was overlooked for even an Oscar nomination two years ago. With this enormously likeable and determined factory worker who leads the fight for equal pay in late-60’s England she could get points for coming back with another winning performance so soon. OSCAR CHANCE: Sally is a bit far down the pack this year and hasn’t had a whole lot of time to campaign since she is also appearing in a Broadway play now in the thick of the season. A terrific actress but this probably isn’t her Academy year either. (more…)