Friday, April 3, 2009

"One Category at a Time": Best Leading Actress

I'm still a bit miffed over the Academy's sad mishandling of last year's abundance of remarkable female lead performances. When they should have included Sally Hawkins, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, and Kate Winslet (for Revolutionary Road), they opted for Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, and Kate Winslet (for The Reader - blech). Not that the five they chose didn't do great work, but they could have chosen better. Anyway, the most deserving actress of the year still won (albeit for the wrong film), so I should quit griping.

Onward. This year may not be has chalk-full of brilliant performances as last year, but there are certainly a number of contenders. One whom I would be unsurprised to see on the shortlist next January is Hilary Swank for Amelia. The Academy loves Swank, having given her two Oscars for her only two nominations, and only five years apart at that. Just imagine how they’ll react to her in a biopic role. Speaking of which, Meryl Streep could be back for a sixteenth nomination for playing chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia, assuming she doesn’t go supporting (Amy Adams is being touted as lead). She always has Nancy Meyers’ as of yet untitled project to lie back on.

Early buzz from Sundance has been kind to Carey Mulligan, the young star of An Education. If the festival circuit continues to sustain the hype, she could sneak a la Melissa Leo with screeners sent to voters early. She also has The Greatest coming out this year to keep her in everybody’s mind. Another young actress with potential for some Academy love is past nominee Saoirse Ronan for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, in which she will play a murdered girl watching her family grieve from heaven. Perhaps Evan Rachel Wood can fill that youth slot for Woody Allen's Whatever Works, where she plays love interest of the much older Larry David.

Helen Mirren also has a few of horses in the race this year with The Last Station, Love Ranch and The Tempest, all of which offer some promise as far as awards prognostication goes. For The Tempest, this version of Shakespeare’s play is being helmed by Julie Taymor, which should be interesting to say the least, and in a gender-switched role Mirren could garner just the attention she needs to pull off a nod.

There is already talk of Michelle Pfeiffer in Stephen Frears Cheri. Pfeiffer was previously nominated for her exceptional turn in Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons, plus she has the benefit of being overdue for an Oscar to boot.

Penelope Cruz, though she recently won for Vicky Christina Barcelona, could be back with a couple of movies. I’ve already discussed the possibility of a supporting nomination for Nine, but I think her better opportunity is for Pedro Amoldovar’s Broken Embraces because she acts so much better speaking Spanish than English, and she was nominated for Amoldovar’s Volver, so I’ve got high hopes for her.

Predicted Five
Penelope Cruz – Broken Embraces
Helen Mirren – The Tempest
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Michelle Pfeiffer – Cheri
Hilary Swank – Amelia

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