The race for Best Actress has not yet gotten started but looking over the year’s slate, finding five nominees should be easier than it’s been in a while. It already looks like a competitive season, with most of the big performances yet to be seen. Already, Rooney Mara in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Julie Delpy in Before Midnight and Berenice Bejo in The Past have made an impression, but the year ahead will also bring us leading roles by Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Emma Thompson, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, to name a few.
The race for Supporting Actress also looks strong so far, with performances by Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station, June Squibb in Nebraska, Kristin Scott-Thomas in Only God Forgives, and Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now already having been seen, and Catherine Keener in Captain Phillips, Julianne Moore in Carrie, Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Carrie Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis, Oprah Winfrey in The Butler, Naomie Harris in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (again, might be campaigned as lead) still to come.
All in all, that makes 2013 a better than decent year for actresses, but particularly for those older than 40. Is there a winner yet or even a frontrunner? Most would probably say Meryl Streep for August: Osage County, and indeed, Streep is the best there is. With two lead Actress Oscars and one Supporting, Streep could very well win her third lead Oscar as she approaches Katharine Hepburn territory. But Cate Blanchett has never won lead, and neither has Annette Bening, and either of them could lean toward achieving that honor this year, theoretically. All of the other major names that might be in the race have already won at least one Oscar — Roberts, Kidman, etc.
Usually the two most exciting Oscar categories are Best Picture or Best Actress. There isn’t usually enough oxygen in the room for both to burn with equal passion. This year, Best Actress might be where all the heat is. But let’s go through the contenders that rise to the top so far, bearing in mind that other names and other performance could break through.
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County, who should bring the roof down in August: Osage County, might be looking at her 18th Oscar nomination and potential 4th win. Streep, who is probably the best actor who ever worked in Hollywood, male or female, doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Her win for the Iron Lady was recent, and who knows how the critics will respond to Osage County (not to mention theater purists). Those factors could be potential obstacles. But first and foremost, Streep always fills up the screen and never turns in a lazy or uninteresting performance.
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County, who might be campaigned in supporting to give more room for Streep. But the trailer indicates that Roberts is the lead, and those who’ve seen the play all say Roberts and Streep are both co-leads. So it will just depend on how the film’s received, how well Roberts stands up to Ms. Streep, and how well the film is liked overall. Is Roberts getting better as she gets older? She seems to be more comfortable in her own skin and this young Southern woman is close to home for her (though Roberts is from Georgia).