It's time to round up the final acting category this week, and like so many other categories this year, the race is pretty wide open. In fact, there are no real locks here, but the race isn't quite as crowded as some others, so we should be able to make some pretty good guesses.
First, it's Lupita Nyong'o from 12 Years a Slave, as the tortured Patsy. Ever since the first screenings, critics and audiences have walked away shattered by her performance and her character. Nyong'o is a newcomer, having just gotten out of film school, and if not for the fact that she's completely unknown, she could be the frontrunner to win here. She might pull it off anyway, along with co-star Ejiofor as the frontrunner himself in Lead Actor.
Then we have Oprah Winfrey, who I suppose is the closest thing to a lock, as she got very good notices for her performance in The Butler, as Forest Whitaker's long-suffering wife Gloria. It is a good performance, and she gets to ham it up just a tiny bit as Gloria gets scenes of drunken complaining, but nothing too over the top. If you ask me, giving Oprah an Oscar for this performance is excessive celebrity worship, because there are many other contenders who are just as good if not better, but because she's Oprah, you can't count her out.
American Hustle recently screened for the press in New York and L.A., and though the film seems to be getting pretty positive reaction overall, the undeniable uniform response from coast to coast is that Jennifer Lawrence steals the show out from under the other actors. Hard as it to believe, it looks like she's going to be a surefire nominee and if she hadn't won Best Actress just last year, would be in the running to win for this. Although I guess you can't count out that remote possibility, because she really is the Girl on Fire at the moment, and who knows what could happen. When the nomination comes through she'll be the youngest actor ever to bag three Oscar nominations.
June Squibb is in fourth place I think, as her performance in Nebraska has garnered standout reviews and she's the feisty old, truth-telling wisecracker that everyone loves (that character always gets nominated). She was also just helped yesterday by an Indie Spirit nom, and the movie itself is going to go over big with the Academy, being right in their wheelhouse and appealing to the demographic of the average voter (old, in other words).
Then we have several people scrambling for a place in fifth. Octavia Spencer is campaigning hard for Fruitvale Station, but missed out on an Indie Spirit nod, and Sally Hawkins has gotten some attention for Blue Jasmine, which is still hanging in there, having just had its screeners sent out. Julia Roberts looks like the best bet to me for August: Osage County, which has earned her some of the best notices of her career, and reports are that it's really a co-lead performance with Meryl Streep, which always helps (Christoph Waltz won last year for what was essentially a leading performance in Django Unchained). Her co-star, character actress Margo Martindale is also hovering around the fringes along with longshot Jennifer Garner in Dallas Buyers Club.
Here's where I'm at right now:
I think I'm pretty solid on these predictions at the moment, actually. The category being less crowded does help to narrow down the contenders, although the win in that group is honestly anybody's guess. My own would be that it comes down to either Nyong'o or June Squibb, but like I said, Oprah and even Jennifer Lawrence have a real shot as well. It's a crapshoot right now. Next week is the final roundup where I take a look at all the possible Best Picture contenders, right before the critics awards start piling on, which will narrow down a lot of categories considerably. In fact, since the critics awards will kick off next Tuesday with the New York Critics Circle, followed by the National Board of Review on Wednesday, I'll be doing the Best Picture roundup this Monday instead. Until then!