Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Hathaway will be considered the leading contender for, as In Contention’s Kris Tapley noted, the single shot lasting four minutes of her singing and sobbing the aria “I Dreamed a Dream.” Naked emotion, plus a shaved head and an emaciated frame, should scream “Acting!” to the voters, at least a quarter of whom are in that very trade. Field, nearly three decades past her two Best Actress wins (for Norma Rae and Places in the Heart), is towered over, literally and dramatically, by Daniel Day-Lewis, but don’t discount her chance to say, “You like me! … You really like me!” one more time. Hunt, who won an Oscar for the 1997 As Good as It Gets (defeating Kate Winslet’s turn in Titanic), returns to the spotlight playing a sex surrogate who connects emotionally with her client, a virgin polio victim. The work by three-time Oscar nominee Adams as Hoffman’s sweet-voiced, steel-trap-brained wife in The Master overcame Academy resistance to this off-putting film; her achievement is unignorable. Weaver, who was an Oscar nominee as the mother of an Australian crime family in Animal Kingdom two years ago, got a nod as the matriarch of suburban Philadelphia’s Solitano clan. Her selection, a surprise to many, means that all four leads of Silver Linings Playbook were nominated — the first time that’s happened since 1982, when Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Maureen Stapleton were all cited for Reds.
Snubs: Nicole Kidman earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination for the little-seen yet widely reviled Southern gothic drama The Paperboy, in which she has a steamy sex scene with John Cusack and squats to urinate on Zac Efron (for reasons more antiseptic than erotic). The boldness of those scenes, and Kidman’s acute enthusiasm for playing a tramp, could have impressed the Academy; instead, it may have disqualified her. Maggie Smith could have been included for her role in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but this two-time winner and six-time nominee — and Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey — was downgraded. Ann Dowd, who’s scary-good as the helpless manager of a fast-food store in Compliance, would have been a healthy tribute to truly independent movies, but perhaps not enough voters saw the film.
Judi Dench was thought to be in the running as M in Skyfall, in which the Brit spy chief and chilly mother figure gets to do some serious emoting when facing down Javier Bardem as a crazed ex-employee — one Oscar winner facing another, directed by a third (Sam Mendes). But pedigree couldn’t shake the Academy’s lingering prejudice against action-film franchises. That Skyfall was the first James Bond film to gross $1 billion at the worldwide box office simply certified the members’ suspicion of an intelligent adventure movie that a hundred million people paid to see.
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