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Natalie vs. Annette?

Writing for the Daily Beast, Nicole LaPorte quotes others saying that the Best Actress race could be down to Natalie Portman for Black Swan and Annette Bening for the Kids Are All Right. This is one of the many post-Toronto and Oscar pieces floating around this morning. We can’t say for sure yet whether this is a big Toronto year or not; we’ll have to see how the biggest get out of there, The King’s Speech, ultimately does.

Portman’s performance is said to be her best yet – brilliant, harsh, challenging. If only she was also playing a prostitute or a drug addict – she’d been the winner. But, from what I gather, her character is not likable. Likability, or at least great sympathy is key to a win. Can she make it on sheer ability? Of course. Liking her character, really really liking her character helps a wee bit more. I haven’t yet seen the film so I can’t say for sure.

Portman has a lesbian scene and a masturbation scene. I don’t think this is necessarily a turn-off. Best Actress winners often have on screen nudity or sex scenes — The Reader, Monster’s Ball, etc. But usually it’s with a man. Still, since when have men objected to sex between women?

Bening is probably way ahead in terms of likability.   She too has a lesbian sex scene to contend with. Ironic, dontcha think?

The other actresses right now very much in the mix include Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine, who spent years researching this role and very nearly lived the part for a few months, Jennifer Lawrence, still very much in the race — likable and uneducated. Uneducated is a favorite trait among Best Actress winners. If they can’t read, all the better.

There is also Lesley Manville in Another Year – a tragic, sweet and incredibly adept performance – she may go supporting. Naomi Watts for Fair Game, and then there is Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right. Finally, Nicole Kidman looks very promising for Rabbit Hole. Having already won, she won’t zoom to the top of the pile. Bening has never won.

Portman has youth on her side, no doubt about it. And Hollywood is often shameless in its adoration of younger females.

Right now, there are six. We need to dump one.

Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Lesley Manville, Another Year (unless supporting)
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine