Oscars 2014 Cheat Sheet: Best Actress

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As is traditional now that the Academy Award nominations have been announced, we’re profiling the nominees in each of the main categories and assessing their strengths and weaknesses going into the competition. We already profiled Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Today is about the leading ladies. Will it all go Cate Blanchett’s way? Can Sandra Bullock float in and cause an upset? Will Meryl Streep take another statue home just because? Here’s how it looks…

Amy Adams - American Hustle

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. American Hustle is clearly highly regarded by the Oscar voters, and Adams has what’s probably the most complicated and layered role in the film. She’s working with Bale’s Irving (or is she?) who she loves (or does she?) while flirting with Cooper’s DiMaso (or is…you get the idea) and sparring with Lawrence’s Rosalyn. 1. Because Adams’ role is so layered, her true motivations aren’t always clear, and she therefore lacks some of the emotional whammy of other nominees. Also, Cate Blanchett’s looking like a lock for this category. 2. Adams is a four-time Oscar nominee in the Supporting category, so she’s been consistently good for years, she won the Globe this year (in the Musical/Comedy category) and was BAFTA nominated. 2. Adams wasn’t even nominated in her own right for the SAG awards (she won as part of the Ensemble), and her many past Oscar nods are no guarantee of success, as Martin Scorsese could attest. 3. If showing a bit of cleavage can help sway the voters, Adams will romp the field. Her costumes were hellaciously sexy. 3. Will her giant disco hair put off voters who had to endure it first time around?
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. From the first press screening, Blanchett has looked well-nigh unbeatable, with a monstrously good performance as a society belle fallen on hard times and hiding increasing desperation behind her Chanel cardies. 1. The chief criticism – indeed, virtually the only criticism – levelled at Blanchett has been that the performance might be a little too actor-ly, and insufficiently natural. Since she’s playing a profoundly self-conscious woman, that’s a questionable quibble, but it might hurt her. 2. She’s won the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and virtually everything else going. 2. She did miss out on, er, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award and the Gotham Awards, so she’s not unbeatable. Of course, neither of those winners is nominated (Adèle Exarchopoulos and Brie Larson). 3. This is her fifth Oscar nomination and would only be her second win. If anyone feels like they should have a second Oscar, surely it’s Blanchett? 3. Maybe she’s too obvious? Maybe the voters will assume that everyone else is going to give it to her, and cast a sympathy vote for Adams or someone.
Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. She’s Meryl Streep. She’s an awesome and beloved human being as well as a formidable Oscar force. And she’s very eye-catching in the film. 1. If you won awards for being Meryl Streep / being awesome, she’d have 18 Academy Awards rather than 3. 2. She was SAG and Globe nominated, and also has sixty bajillion (OK, 18) Oscar nominations to date and 3 wins. 2. Aside from Streep and Julia Roberts, the film hasn’t garnered much love, and even Meryl Streep hasn’t been winning awards for it. 3. It’s a little-known fact that the original line in Passenger 57 was, “Always bet on black, unless Meryl Streep is available, in which case always bet on Meryl Streep.” 3. The 20th anniversary re-release of Passenger 57 redubbed the line, “Always bet on Meryl Streep, unless Cate Blanchett is available, in which case always bet on Cate Blanchett.” Weirdly specific, that film.
Judi Dench – Philomena

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. A world away from the formidable figures that Dench often specialises in, this is the nicest character among the nominees by some distance. Also, your mum liked this performance best out of all the nominees. 1. Philomena’s so nice and unassuming that the performance behind it may go unnoticed. Also, your mum doesn’t get a vote. 2. She’s a former winner, and has all the requisite SAG / BAFTA / Golden Globe nods. 2. Dench has been losing out so far to Blanchett – as, in fairness, has everyone. 3. She probably has the whole of MI6 working now to ensure she takes this. We’re pretty sure the whole “actress” thing is just a cover, y’see, and she really is M. 3. If Dench is really M in real life, then she’s dead, and we’re not sure that holograms are allowed to win Oscars.
Sandra Bullock – Gravity

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. Almost singlehandedly, she provides the riveting human story at the heart of Alfonso Cuarón’s space drama, as well as surmounting the considerable challenges of working at the heart of monumentally complex special effects that required her to hit exacting marks while communicating high emotions. 1. Oscar voters historically remove points for overcoming technical challenges involved in effects-heavy work, rather than awarding them. It’s bizarre, and unfair, but there it is. They seem to think that special effects cancel out performance, somehow. 2. She’s a former winner and she was nominated this year for the BAFTAs as well as the SAGs and Globes. We reckon she was robbed of an Ensemble nod at the SAGs as well – and you just know her speech would be awesome. 2. She’s been losing to La Blanchett left and right. And in fairness, the Blue Jasmine star also gives a good speech. 3. Only one Best Actress winner ever was in her fifties when she won. Since Bullock, unbelievably, turns 50 later this year, this is statistically her best chance for the next decade. 3. The Academy Awards don’t actively try to reinforce shameful statistics like that one. We hope.