Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSCAR NOMINEES 2011: The female acting categories

To much fanfare, the 2011 Academy Award nominations were released today.  You can grab an entire list of the nominations here.  Here's an analysis of the female acting categories: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.  Both categories can create overnight new stars and validate veteran careers at the same time.  These are always two interesting races to watch.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Who was snubbed:  Without a doubt, the list begins and ends with Mila Kunis from Black Swan.  Maybe it's the knock some people have on TV stars and child actors (including this reviewer's own spelled out "That 70's Show" Curse that cowers over Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher too), but then how can Dawson's Creek alum Michelle Williams be up for her second nomination?  Kunis was a Golden Globe and Critic's Choice nominee and deserves to compete for the top award.  Her Black Swan co-star Barbara Hershey could have stolen some of her thunder and momentum.

Happy to be there:  A lot of people are going to scratch their head and point to Jacki Weaver from Animal Kingdom, but she has won the Best Supporting Actress award from the Los Angeles Film Critic's Circle, the National Board of Review, and the Satellite Awards.  Though her name and her movie are little-known (no Golden Globe or Screen Actor's Guild nominations) she's won over a lot of people to be here.  Maybe it's True Grit youngster Hailee Steinfeld who should be happy to be there.  There were fears she was splitting her own vote in two categories, with many considering her performance a lead role more than a supporting role.

Who will win:  This category is a historic wild card.  There have been so many presumed sure-things that have lost to stunning upsets (Marisa Tomei, Marcia Gay Harden, Anna Paquin, Tatum O'Neal, Juliette Binoche, Mira Sorvino) in this category that it's head-spinning.  Sometimes it's age.  Sometimes it's the young ingenue.  This year, you could have Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, both from The Fighter, splitting their own vote, even though Leo won the Golden Globe.  It could be the veteran Weaver or the Academy could do their child winner (Paquin and O'Neal) routine and give it to Steinfeld.  This race is literally too close to call.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Who was snubbed:  There are fringe snubs here, nothing major.  Another Year's Lesley Manville won the National Board of Review Best Actress award and missed a nomination.  Two-time winner Hilary Swank has a SAG nomination in this category, but has clearly won for bigger and better things in the past (Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby).  Swedish actress Noomi Rapace from the soon-to-be-Americanized The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the hit novel has had some buzz, as has Anne Hathaway from Love and Other Drugs (and co-host of the awards show itself with Best Actor nominee James Franco), but nothing big enough to make waves.  Halle Berry couldn't maintain her Golden Globe nomination momentum for her Frankie and Alice performance.

Happy to be there:  The triplet of Nicole Kidman from Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence of Winter's Bone, and Blue Valentine's Michelle Williams should be enamored to have their names on the list.  Kidman is a former winner who went indie with Rabbit Hole.  Lawrence is the up-and-coming young star where the nomination is the reward, much like Amy Adams had for Junebug a few years back.  Williams deserves to be there, but carries that child-star/TV-star knock that kept Mila Kunis out of the supporting category.

Who will win:  This is a clear-cut two contender race.  It's Natalie Portman's Black Swan dominance and bright young stardom versus the sentimental veteran resume vote for Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right.  With Black Swan only getting five total nominations, two opposite cases can be made.  One, popularity and acclaim for the movie has softened and cooled.  That could leave room for Bening to not become the next Meryl Streep.  Though, at four career nominations, she's got a long way to go to reach that resume of 16 nominations.  Also, Bening has clearly been more leading and better in other performances (American Beauty and Being Julia).  The second scenario is that, because of the few nominations, voters will feel that Black Swan was wronged after the fact, and that this is the best, and possibly only, spot to shower accolades for Black Swan.  Flat out, this award deserves to and likely will go to Natalie Portman.  She's the best choice of the field, period.