This year sees a bounty of Best Actress possibilities. A typical year will struggle to come up with five nominees in movies that the casual viewer will have even heard of, let alone seen, but I can easily come up with a dozen possibilities, most of them in high profile films. Whereas in a usual year an actress from an indie or foreign-language film will sneak in, that may not be necessary this year. Of course, even with the many stars in the mix, that doesn't preclude the possibility of an indie darling from making the grade. And, in a departure, there is no Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, or Kate Winslet pictures in sight.
Here is my absurdly early predictions for the five nominees, plus a host of alternates that I will list to hedge my bets. In alphabetical order:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right: The interesting aspect of this nomination is whither Julianne Moore? There hasn't been two actresses nominated in this category in the same film since Davis and Sarandon in Thelma and Louise, and it's likely that one of them will be pushed toward the Supporting Actress category. Moore's part is larger, and she has the requisite big scenes, but all the talk has been about Bening. Both have are Oscar-less, but I think Bening is seen as the more aggrieved party. My guess is that only Bening will be nominated from this film in this category.
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs: An appealing young actress, and I just learned she'll be playing a woman with a disease. Please, this is a done deal!
Diane Lane, Secretariat: As with my prediction for this film for Best Picture, it all depends on whether it's actually any good. Or, as with The Blind Side, whether it's good as judged by the middlebrow, and makes a box-office killing. Diane Lane is no Sandra Bullock when it comes to putting fannies in the seats, but the role seems ideal for earning at least a Golden Globe nomination.
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone: This is wishful thinking, I realize, and gives me an excuse to run the above picture, which show Miss Laurence out of the uniform of parka and wool cap she wears in the picture. Oscar is very fond of nominating ingenues in this category, and in a typical year she'd stand a much better chance, but what the hell, I'll roll the dice. I've got no money on it.
Natalie Portman, Black Swan: The best chance to take the award away from Bening. The critical acclaim is pretty loud, and Portman has the glamour to back it. The role may be too Grand Guignol for her to actually win, but that's another conversation. Seems like she's got a nomination sewn up.
If any of these five are missing, the nominees should come from this list:
Naomi Watts, Fair Game
Hilary Swank, Conviction--she has beaten Bening twice, but there's no way she's winning a third Oscar. Besides, the trailer makes this film look like a glorified TV movie.
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole--Kidman's star has been on the wane, but she plays the mother of a dead child, which sounds like Oscar bait.
Lesley Manville, Another Year--Unclear if this is a lead or supporting performance. Mike Leigh films have gotten nominations in the past, though an expected one for Sally Hawkins didn't happen.
Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go
Robin Wright, The Conspirator
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love--the kind of performance that could sneak in in a weak year.
Reese Witherspoon, How Do You Know--with Jim Brooks, you never know
Julia Roberts, Eat Pray Love--won't happen.