HOLLYWOOD—The Best Actress race is always a nail-bitter. I can recall so many past years where the race was a toss-up between two actresses: Nicole Kidman “The Hours” vs. Renee Zellwegger “Chicago,”HalleBerry“Monster’s Ball” vs. Sissy Spacek “In the Bedroom,” Annette Benning “American Beauty” vs. Hillary Swank “Boys Don’t Cry” and most recently last year’s race between Meryl Streep “The Iron Lady” and Viola Davis “The Help.” This year will be no different as powerhouses Jessica Chastain “Zero Dark Thirty” and Jennifer Lawrence “Silver Linings Playbook” will go toe-to-toe for the prize, but there are other nominees in this race that could upset.
First up we have Emmanuelle Riva who gives a riveting performance as a Anne Laurent in “Amour.” Anne is a woman on the verge of death and fighting to stay alive and maintain her sanity with so many forces grabbing at her. It is perhaps one of the most heartfelt performances of all the nominees in this race. Riva recently took home the BAFTA award for Best Actress and makes history by becoming the oldest nominee for Best Actress. If an upset takes place on Oscar Sunday, it’ll be because of this lady.
On the other hand, an upset could take place from the youngest person to ever be nominated for Best Actress in nine year-old Quvenzhane Wallis for her brave work in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” where she portrays a precocious child attempting to survive in the Bayou of Louisiana after a tragic storm. She makes history becoming the 10th African-American nominated for Best Actress in the Academy’s history. She brings a heart to a character, which while she is young is wise beyond her ages as she does battle with her tough loving father. Is the performance out of this world, no, but Wallis brings such a charm to this character the audience will be unable to turn its eyes away.
Naomi Watts picks up her second Best Actress nomination for her work in “The Impossible.” She was previously nominated in 2003 for “21 Grams.” Watts performance as Maria Bennett in this horrific tale about a family’s fight for survival in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami was incredible to watch on the screen. It’s perhaps one of the most difficult, yet moving pictures I’ve seen this year. She is a fighter; just watching that scene where she dives into the rampaging waters to rescue her eldest son is phenomenal! She is indeed being over looked for her work and the Academy could sway her away if enough members see the picture.
Jennifer Lawrence is back at the Academy Awards once again. She was nominated in 2010 for her work in “Winter’s Bone,” and is back again for her feisty performance as Tiffany in “Silver Linings Playbook” Lawrence takes the audience on a journey with her mentally ill character who is not afraid to speak her mind, yet has a charm about her that makes her instantly likable. That scene where she gives Pat a tongue lashing for judging her in that restaurant is awesome, not to mention the emotion on her face after discovering that Pat may reunite with his ex; it’s absolutely heartbreaking in my opinion. It shows Lawrence’s range as an actress to play funny, angry and grieving all at once.
Jessica Chastain has been acting for quite some time, but burst on the big screen in a big way in 2011 for her work in the ensemble piece “The Help” where she picked up a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work. This time Chastain is the front-runner for her portrayal of Maya, a CIA operative in the tense drama “Zero Dark Thirty.” Hands down Chastain is the star of this picture, displaying the intensity of a heroine who rarely displays any emotion in her fight to capture America’s most wanted man: Osama Bin Laden. There are slight moments where a glimmer of emotion emerges from Maya, but she quickly keeps that emotion at bay.
In my honest opinion, this is a two-person race between Chastain and Lawrence and the Academy can lean either way. If they’re looking to honor intensity in a performance hands down Chastain is the winner. However, if they are looking to honor a complex character that brings heart to a picture then Lawrence is the victor. This is a tough one, but I am giving my vote for Chastain as her performance indeed sticks with you. She is absolutely exceptional in “Zero Dark Thirty,” but I would not be surprised if Lawrence edged out a win over the competition as “Silver Linings Playbook” is a huge hit with audiences right now.
By LaDale Anderson