OscarWatch: Best Lead Actress

24 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post I’ll tackle…

Best Lead Actress

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by actresses in a leading role in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race itself, I’d very much like to call it a lock and say Natalie Portman will no doubt win this one. However, I don’t think we should count Annette Bening out just yet. I mean, I’d call it an 85% certainty that Ms. Portman will win this one, but Ms. Bening has already lost twice in this race (and I’m guessing that on both occasions she came in second in voting) so she’s due, and actors and audiences both love her, so an upset may occur.

Personal Top 20

  1. Natalie Portman (for Black Swan) – My favorite film of the year, my favorite performance of the year. I would love to see Annette Bening win because I thought she was robbed that first time she lost, but considering this performance by Ms. Portman then I’ll be sorry to tell her she should brace herself for a third loss.
  2. Michelle Williams (for Blue Valentine) – Michelle Williams I think I’ve never seen do a single bad thing. And she, alongside Ryan Gosling (who I ranked 3rd in my Best Lead Actor rankings), is just dynamite here. Providing a brutally honest and painful look at a very troubled marriage.
  3. Annette Bening (for The Kids Are All Right) – She’s undeniably great here, and she’s an awesome woman. The dinner scene at Paul’s house, from her singing that Joni Mitchell song, to finding out about her wife’s cheating and the expressions in her face, that’s all unbelievable acting from a woman who’s incredibly good at picking the right projects and is one of the best in the business.
  4. Jennifer Lawrence (for Winter’s Bone) – One of the breakout stars of 2010, she carries her little film to absolute greatness with a remarkably grounded performance which gives a speck of hope to a horribly bleak film.
  5. Nicole Kidman (for Rabbit Hole) – Nicole Kidman hasn’t been this good since The Hours. This was her passion project, she helped produce it and she stars in it, giving a gut-wrenching performance as a mourning mother.
  6. Julianne Moore (for The Kids Are All Right) – She goes head to head against Annette Bening in here, as her character goes through an emotional rollercoaster which she conveys to perfection.
  7. Carey Mulligan (for Never Let Me Go) – And I’ll say it one more time, Never Let Me Go, my official selection for the most underrated film of 2010. Carey Mulligan comes off her stellar star-making performance in last year’s An Education to star in this one, and she’s just amazing in it too.
  8. Lesley Manville (for Another Year) – Mike Leigh’s films are always an actor’s dream if the actor is willing to shed off any sort of vanity they may have and just lay it all on the line for the amazing director. Lesley Manville does just that, and the performance we end up seeing is a thing of beauty.
  9. Tilda Swinton (for Io Sono l’Amore) – I’m a big fan of Tilda Swinton, who already has an Oscar, and the work she did in this gorgeous Italian film is amazing, I seriously doubt a nomination will happen, but, much like Javier Bardem’s in the Best Lead Actor race, it would be kinda nice to see a foreign language performance get an acting nod.
  10. Noomi Rapace (for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) – She’s generating some very nice buzz for her role in this one, the first entry in the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novels, and it’s all well deserved. She has a toughness that’s just brilliant to watch develop.
  11. Anne Hathaway (for Love and Other Drugs) – This film is one I thought was severely underrated, and Anne Hathaway’s performance was truly amazing here. She won’t get nominated, but this only builds up her string of amazing acting in very solid films, and I can’t help but think she’ll get one of those golden men in the future.
  12. Kirsten Dunst (for All Good Things) – Consider this mention my official “welcome back” card for Ms. Dunst. We hadn’t seen her in anything for quite some time, so just the sight of her was something I cherished, the fact that she went on and delivered a very good performance was just additional icing on an already very sweet cake.
  13. Sally Hawkins (for Made in Dagenham) – Though this wasn’t as amazing as her performance in Happy-Go-Lucky (which the Academy failed to recognize) it was still buzzing with the charismatic energy Sally Hawkins has, and the film is a lighter than most Academy baits so it has that fresh appeal going for it.
  14. Annette Bening (for Mother and Child) – A double-honoree in my rankings here, this was a film I thought was seen by too few people and was also full of impeccable performances. Ms. Bening’s was the finest of the bunch, as is usually the case.
  15. Naomi Watts (for Fair Game) – To go toe to toe with Sean Penn, and actually manage to out-do him is something very few actors can accomplish. Naomi Watts does just that in Fair Game, a film in which she gets to play Valerie Plame and does some incredible things with the role.
  16. Diane Lane (for Secretariat) – This film was supposed to be much more an awards bait than it eventually turned out to be. But I still thought it was a very very good inspirational film, anchored by a very nice performance by Ms. Lane.
  17. Chloë Moretz (for Let Me In) – 2010 was also the year in which we discovered Chloë Moretz, first in Kick-Ass and then in Let Me In. The latter was the one in which she delivered her better performance, and, even though the film was well-received, very few people actually saw it. If you haven’t done so, please watch it, it’s nearly as perfect as the original Swedish film on which it’s based, and has Ms. Moretz bringing her A-game.
  18. Kristen Stewart (for Welcome to the Rileys) – You just have to watch Ms. Stewart’s non-Twilight roles to really see how great an actress she actually is. Yes, her style of acting may be the same in all her films, kind of fidgety and quiet, but that gives each of her characters something rather unique. In Welcome to the Rileys she plays a troubled girl to tremendous results, going head to head with James Gandolfini in some really tough scenes.
  19. Gwyneth Paltrow (for Country Strong) – The film eventually wasn’t as amazing as it first seemed it would be. But Gwyneth Paltrow was still amazing in it. I’ve heard a lot of people say she’s way overrated, but I disagree, I think she’s pretty damn awesome in everything she tackles.
  20. Amanda Seyfried (for Chloe) – As always, the final spot of my Top 20 goes to a sentimental favorite of mine. Here it’s Amanda Seyfried, who does wonders with the titular role in Chloe, having some electrifying scenes alongside Julianne Moore.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • Annette Bening (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Nicole Kidman (for Rabbit Hole)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Natalie Portman (for Black Swan)
  • Michelle Williams (for Blue Valentine)

First time in my OscarWatch for the acting races that the five nominations I imagine the Academy will name matches five-for-five with my five favorite performances of the year. Natalie Portman and Annette Bening are the mortal locks, with the award itself being a fight between the two of them, a fight in which Ms. Portman currently has the edge. Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lawrence also look like very strong bets. As for that fifth slot, there’s a few ways in which that one could go, Michelle Williams I think will make the cut, and if she doesn’t I’d say it won’t happen because the voters will have put Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit as Lead instead of Supporting and she ended up bumping Ms. Williams off the shortlist.

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