2013 Oscars: Best Actress

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

In one of my earlier posts, I promised (nay, foreshadowed) a bit of bitching in this Oscars post regarding the differences between the leading vs. supporting categories. Never passing up an opportunity to complain about something seemingly irrelevant in this blog, I will not disappoint.

I honestly don’t know what the “official” Oscars designation is. It seems that you can campaign for one or the other. I remember Richard Gere famously campaigning for the Lead Actor Oscars nomination for Chicago, despite that he was a shoe-in for a Oscars Best Supporting nom and had the inside track to the win. He didn’t even get nominated in the end.

This year’s list has two Oscars nominees that confuse me. Let’s start with Naomi Watts. Without giving much away about The Impossible; it was basically split into two narratives. One of these narratives surrounded the father (Ewan McGregor) and the other around the son and his mother (Watts). In the latter, the story is told from the son’s point of view, as Watts spends a good portion unconscious. Given this, I fail to understand how Watts wound up in this category; there’s little question that she should have fallen in the Supporting Actress category.

Moving on now to Emmanuelle Riva from Amour. My feelings on this film are already well covered (to sum up: not up to the hype). Riva delivers a staggering performance, but what people fail to realize is that the movie isn’t really ABOUT her. It’s much more about the husband, and what he goes through for his love for her.

Riva, at 86, is the oldest nominee ever in the Best Actress category. Quvenzhane Wallis, at 9, is the youngest. Wallis has an incredibly bright future ahead of her on the silver screen, and will likely be seen on multiple Oscars nights. Though Beasts (like Amour) doesn’t hold up to the hype, Wallis (then six years old) certainly brought the intensity and was able to hold it down and deliver emotion and nuance when she had to.

However good the previous three are, this really is a two woman race at this point between two terrific actresses in two completely different films. Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain had one of the best female characters I’ve seen in a film in years. Maya, based on an actual CIA agent, is a complex, very well developed character who changes drastically over the course of the film based on the brutality and frustration presented to her. Chastain was a terrific casting choice who fit Maya like a glove.

But the year’s blow-away performance goes to Jennifer Lawrence in this category. At 22, Lawrence is already on her second nomination, and is coming off something of a breakout year (if that’s possible for a star) with a huge turnout for The Hunger Games and the Oscars nomination for SLP. Like Chastain’s character, Lawrence’s Tiffany was the perfect compliment to Bradley Cooper’s Pat: crazy yet smart, tough yet vulnerable. Lawrence expertly swung the pendulum as needed, always walking the tightrope like an veteran.

Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook