Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Prediction: Amy Adams
Chance of winning: 35%
I know what you’re thinking…that you should completely disregard everything that you’ve just read because I’m clearly insane.
Before you do that, allow me to explain how I’ve reached my conclusion. It’s by simple procession of elimination.
With the supporting Globe and SAG winner Kate Winslet not competing in here, the race is wide open. Henson is a relatively unknown actress who was solid but unspectacular, so count her out.
Tomei is the only previous winner in the group, and her performance just isn’t powerful enough to warrant a second Oscar. Plus, the same distaste for the film which hurts Rourke also hurt her.
That brings us down to three. Most pundits are going with Cruz, and I’ll admit that I was leaning that way until recently. She’s earned more buzz than anyone in this category, beginning even before the film came out. There’s no question that she’s the most memorable part of Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And she has a certain sophistication and exotic factor that voters may find tempting.
However, she faces some huge negatives that must be acknowledged. She’s what I call a “one nomination wonder” – her film isn’t up for any other awards. Over the past 15 years, only four performances have won Oscars on just a single nomination. All of those won the Golden Globe and three of them also won the SAG award. Cruz doesn’t have that to back her up.
She has a rather small part, not even showing up until more than half way through the movie. It’s tough to win for a comedy, especially in such brief scenes when so much of the dialogue is Spanish.
Strategically, the film’s August release is a killer, as it’s now almost six months old and just doesn’t seem fresh. I can see many potential Cruz voters carefully examining their ballots, looking for an alternative.
That leaves us with the two ladies from Doubt. There’s no question that the film made an impact with voters, scoring a rare four acting nominations. Only 11 films in the previous 40 years have done that, and ten of those won at least one acting trophy.
With Streep and Hoffman headed for apparent defeat, this is the only place for Doubt to win.
There’s been much talk about Davis and her 10-minute extended scene, and some are predicting her to be a surprise victor. She certainly delivers and there’s a definite impact to her work, but is it large enough to deserve an Oscar?
Most Academy members will simply say no.
Judi Dench may have won for an even smaller performance in Shakespeare in Love ten years ago, but that film won best picture and Dench had just come off a best actress loss for her acclaimed role in Mrs. Brown.
This is Davis’s first nomination, and most of her previous film roles have been rather small. It may not seem right to give her an Oscar just yet. That leaves us with Adams, whom most analysts have written off as a lightweight. But is she? She has the largest role in this category, holding her own with Meryl Streep in almost every scene she’s in. The performance may be quiet but it’s rich in dialogue, and the character actually changes through the course of the film.
Adams was nominated for this category three years ago for Junebug, and has now proven herself adept at both mainstream comedies (Enchanted, Talladega Nights and the upcoming Night at the Museum sequel) as well as serious drama.
In fact, she appears to be one of the few bankable young actresses working today – her name on the marquis means more than the other four nominees combined.
Academy voters factor these things in, and I suspect that there will be many more votes for Adams than people expect.
I’ll admit that I have doubts, but think that she may be the year’s one big surprise winner. (For the record, I give Cruz a 30% chance and Davis a 20% chance of winning.)