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Annette Bening and Natalie Portman, One More Time

On Twitter, both Anne Thompson and Kris Tapley have been talking about the possibility for an Annette Bening upset over Natalie Portman on Oscar night. ¬†It’s really been down to these two actresses since the start of Oscar season. ¬†It will be interesting to see how Oscars 2011 go down – they’ll either be the most predictable Oscars ever or the least predictable. ¬†Will there be winners that come out of nowhere, like Adrien Brody did the year The Pianist almost swept the Oscars? ¬†Everyone had been heavily focused on the two favorites – Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. ¬†Looking back on it now, it seems like Brody would have won based on the performance alone. ¬†As someone who championed his performance like crazy back then — and The Pianist, I might add (I was ridiculed then as I’m ridiculed now for being an advocate) — it was one of the highs of the time I’ve spent covering the race.

So, if there is to be an Adrien Brody in this year’s Best Actress race, I’m going to take a stab at it and say that Jennifer Lawrence is still the dark horse here. But there are a couple of significant differences between this year and the year Brody won. ¬†The first was that both Nicholson and Day Lewis had already won Oscars. ¬†This year, neither Bening nor Portman have ever won. ¬†Lawrence, though, plays a much more sympathetic and likable character than either Bening’s or Portman’s. ¬†Of those two, Bening’s is slightly more admirable, being a woman who stands up for her family — she also gets points for playing a gay character.

Let’s look at how they’ve done with critics; it should be remembered that Day Lewis and Nicholson were taking the majority of the critics votes – and Brody did not win the SAG award. ¬†Bening, it should also be remembered, kind of cleaned up the critics awards the year she lost for Being Julia.

Golden Globe
New York Film Critics
London Film Critics

Golden Globe
Critics Choice
Las Vegas
Online Film Critics

Jennifer Lawrence
Toronto Film Fest
Seattle Film Fest
San Diego

In Bening’s favor: she is beloved within the industry. ¬†She’s never won. ¬†She’s been campaigning low profile, which is a refreshing change from the usual. ¬†Her popularity among her peers seems unshakable and could make the difference if there is any kind of vote splitting going on. ¬†Her performance is strong and unforgettable. ¬†Bening never drops the ball and shows a dead serious side to herself we’ve never really seen from her. ¬†Her film is nominated for Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actor.

In Portman’s favor: She’s young and pretty, which counts for much – we know this to be true. ¬†She’s also had an already long career in Hollywood, starting when she was a kid. ¬†Black Swan has become a box office phenomenon, heading fast towards $100 million if it isn’t there already. ¬†The film is nominated in multiple categories and is the one film, other than The Social Network, to be nominated for all of the guilds. ¬†That is Aronofsky’s success as much as hers but let’s face it: Portman IS Black Swan. It’s an iconic work — she’ll always be the Black Swan. ¬†But then, Julia Roberts was the Pretty Woman and that didn’t win her an Oscar.

Jennifer Lawrence is the dark horse. ¬†If she were campaigning instead of filming I would think she’d have the best chance at being the surprise name they call. ¬†I will leave it up to you to decide which actress will take the Oscar on February 27.