Naomi Watts

The Hollywood Reporter has put up their Best Actress roundtable. So far, they’ve done the writers and actors so now they add the actresses – lead and supporting. Marion Cotillard, Naomi WattsHelen Hunt, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams and Rachel Weisz.

Some pics after the cut. HR link.

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By most estimations, Jennifer Lawrence has the Oscar race for Best Actress sewn up. The one-two punch of her work in Silver Linings Playbook, currently receiving very good reviews, and the $400 million she generated for the Hunger Games franchise, gives her the edge heading into the race.

But there are a few competing factors at play. The first, Jessica Chastain is about to hit with Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain carries the film. Unlike Lawrence, she isn’t “the girlfriend” but is the CIA agent obsessed with the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Imagine that, after all is said and done a woman gets to take credit for that? It is arguably among the best characters of the year.

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Two pieces of important information have come to light recently that may impact the Best Actress race: Anne Hathaway will be campaigned for lead as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and Jessica Chastain will also go lead for Zero Dark Thirty. Whether either of them will break through in a crowded race is a different story. Much will likely depend on the nominations at the Globes, then the SAGs and the Critics Choice Awards. By then, a consensus will have emerged. Those early awards are great for pruning the crowd. Once the nominees are named, voters get to sit on judgement about whether those are deserving nominations or not, whether there are more deserving names that got left off the list, and how each nominations or win would make them feel.

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Kris Tapley, who has seen The Impossible, said he walked away thinking Naomi Watts had the best chance in the film for a nod. This is hard to believe, looking at the film’s trailer, because it gives the definite impression that Ewan McGregor turns himself inside and out for this.  But Tapley goes on to say that Summit will push instead for Tom Holland in the leading category, and Ewan McGregor in supporting.  An interesting development — of course, it never really matters how the studio pushes any contender – hope springs eternal in this, the early phase.

To me it’s significant that Tapley singled out Watts as the only one who might get a nod – that tells me it might not be a performance-heavy piece, despite how the trailer plays.  Privately, he told me only that the film was incredibly heavy. More of his thoughts are here.

The hardest thing about the Oscar race is planning how the kid’s wedding is going to go before he’s even born.  So many people ask me if

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It is being said that this is the Year of the Actress. It very may be, and if it is, it’s a long time coming. As we head out of the bulk of the year and into a very heated next four months, there are some things we know for sure. We know that Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) are the two strongest contenders right now to win. We know that Jennifer Lawrence emerged with one of the year’s best performances in Winter’s Bone, and she will likely also be nominated. That leaves two open slots. And for those two spots, things might get a little heated.

There are many reasons why Bening and Portman lead, and only one of those is that their performances were memorable. Bening is a Hollywood fixture by this point, and though she came close to winning, has never won. Portman is a hard-working actress who also has yet to be recognized. She takes things to a whole new level with Black Swan, however, and though she really had nothing to prove, this performance will be one of the few, I figure, that lives up to the hype.

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Fair GAme

Wrestling the Oscar beast is no easy task. Everyone does their best in the first part of the season to get some kind of foothold on it. We make lists. We think everything is settled and then, wham. Things change. I am used to pushback. It happens to me every year, as I’m sure it happens to anyone who writes about the race. The only way I can keep my sanity is that I have a few people, literally, maybe three, whose opinions I trust. The rest I have to try to balance with what I already know.

And what I know, what anyone else knows, isn’t much. Not on October 12.

There is a filter between seeing films in screenings and how they eventually “do.” The critics are really the ones who mostly shape perception. The bloggers can praise a film until they’re blue in the fingertips, but ultimately – it’s about the critics, the industry, the public and the Academy. Sorry, bloggers, but it just is.

That is why seeing a film in a screening can sometimes be a misleading experience. If the critics don’t agree with the early blogger praise, a film will have a hard time passing the first test. That is why it’s always dangerous to get our strong opinion out there — others are likely to throw it back in our face should the movie fail. This happened to me with The Kite Runner. I am always surprised when I like a movie that ends up doing really well in the race. It is a win-win for me.

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