Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
The Academy made demographic history by naming the youngest and oldest nominees ever in the acting categories. Wallis, the elfin force of nature in Beasts of the Southern Wild, was 6 when she shot the movie (she’s now 9). Plus, she was freakin’ awesome! Riva, a legend for discerning cinephiles ever since she played the French woman in postwar Japan in Alain Resnais’ 1959 Hiroshima, mon amour, is haunting and indelible as the stroke-stricken wife of Jean-Louis Trintignant (a shoulda-been nod for Best Actor) in Michael Haneke’s Best Picture nominee. An Academy Award for this legend would be late-but-great timing: Riva will turn 86 on Oscar night.
Chastain, 35, and Lawrence, 22, both previous Oscar nominees (for The Help and Winter’s Bone, respectively), are thought to be on the even-shorter list of top contenders. Lawrence’s sullen maturity, not just as the young widow with a slut’s reputation in Silver Linings Playbook but also as the archer-heroine in the wildly popular Hunger Games, is the actress whose career achievements we can’t wait to see unfold. But she is almost a supporting player to Bradley Cooper; it’s his Playbook. Chastain, though denied many explosive emotional scenes, is the driving force — indeed the sole major character — in Zero Dark Thirty. The film received fewer top-tier nominations than expected, but for now we’ll say Chastain will be the winner.
As for Watts’ chance of winning for her role as a woman separated from her family in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, we sing the old tune, “It’s impossible.”
Snubs: The Academy missed out on the opportunity to nominate two actresses in foreign-language films for the first time since 1977, when the finalists were Marie-Christine Barrault in Cousin, cousine and Liv Ullmann in Face to Face. Marion Cotillard won Best Actress as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose five years ago, and in Rust and Bone she has the showy role of a whale trainer who loses her legs. But Cotillard did not make the final five. The Academy also ignored Rachel Weisz’s sizzling interpretation of the adulterous wife of a postwar London barrister in Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea.
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