Three Hot Women…

…lead a fiery Oscar race

 

I admit that I don’t pay undue attention to award speculations.  There are so many permutations of movie and TV awards that, honestly, I have a hard time caring about most of them.  With one exception – the Oscars.  I actively try to see movies and performances with big Oscar buzz.  The closest and most interesting category this year looks to be for Best Actress in a Leading Role.  I’ve now seen three of the roles with the most pre-show buzz and, well, it’s gonna be a damn good showdown.

So let’s take a look at these three hot women.

Annette Bening

Thrice nominated, no wins, Annette Bening gives a voice to the insecurities of middle-aged parents in The Kids Are All Right.   Her character bears the weight of most of the drama in this dramedy, playing the uptight older parent opposite the far more laid back Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.  Straightforward married gay sex scenes add some novelty to a role that sits inside an otherwise average movie.

Bening might be hard to beat because of her three previous nominations for far stronger material.  As we all know, it’s not always an actor’s true best performance that wins the award – it’s sometimes one of those “okay performance but she really should have an Oscar” sort of things.  Bening is a stable married woman – an oddity in Hollywood – and has more than paid her dues in previous strong performances.

My biggest problem with a Bening win for this performance is that the movie itself isn’t particularly strong and the cast is really an ensemble, with a nomination perhaps coming for co-star Julianne Moore as well.  When it’s hard to determine who exactly is the lead, it’s not a good omen for a win.

Bening isn’t my choice – I don’t think the part is big enough or the movie strong enough.  In a weaker year, maybe, but not this one.  She has plenty of time to play big, splashy dramatic roles and win an Oscar she actually deserves.  One for this role would smack of a sympathy Oscar for past perceived slights.

Jennifer Lawrence

Lawrence is a real newcomer, with only 4 previous big screen roles.  Despite her relative lack of experience she carries the entirety of Winter’s Bone on her young shoulders.  The movie itself is strong, and the studio is supposedly campaigning hard.   I think she’ll get the nomination.

I don’t think she’ll get the win.  She’s too young, to inexperienced and the movie didn’t land with enough of a splash to really put her on the radar.  The competition is too fierce for a newcomer to walk away with the win.  The film, despite its considerable strengths, is also a little slow and very sparse.  It has loads of indie appeal, but I don’t think it’s enough to pull out an Oscar win.

Natalie Portman

She been nominated for an Oscar and three Razzies.  She’s both beloved and loathed for her Star Wars prequel roles and roundly praised for her other big screen work.  But until her starring role in Black Swan, she was more of a cute kid than a powerhouse actress.

Granted, Portman has received critical acclaim for her work since her first feature (The Professional) filmed when she was 11.  Closer, V for Vendetta, Garden State and Cold Mountain are but a few of the movies in which she has quietly built up a sterling reputation for quality performances.

This year, she got her chance to shine like never before in Black Swan – much like the character she plays.  Working against her for the Oscar is the fact that she often plays to her physicality in roles that call for youth and the appearance of fragility and she does the same here.  Working for her is the fact that she carries an entire very large movie, never faltering and never being upstaged by her co-stars.  She owns every scene.  If I got to choose, the Oscar would go to Portman, no question.  The movie is powerful and stunning and the performance is tremendous.

All three of these women – Bening, Lawrence and Portman – give terrific performances.  I think all three will be nominated and it’s really anyone’s guess who will take home the Oscar.  My choice would be Portman for the sheer magnitude of her performance, but both Bening and Lawrence have formidable talent, supporters and advantages.

Who Else?

There are plenty of other performance being tossed around the ether when it comes to this race.  The one that looks most promising as an additional front-runner is Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it seems tailor made for her acting strengths.  You can bet I’ll be seeing it before the awards ceremony.

In the end I don’t spend a lot of time fretting over who wins what, but I love my Oscars (I’ll very likely Live Blog them, like I did last year).  It’s great to see such a stellar field of women competing this year for Best Actress.  May the Hottest Woman Win!!

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