The Oscar races already have juicy storylines and showdowns to work with in the next two months. For Best Actor, Colin Firth is set to return as the favorite, with his greatest competition having been named as the Oscar host. In Best Actress, Annette Bening is once again trying to finally break through against a young upstart. And in Best Supporting Actor, a pop culture showdown between Batman and Captain Barbossa – a.k.a. Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush – appears imminent. Yet the final Oscar acting category, for Best Supporting Actress, is still struggling to find favorites and a hook.
Traditionally, Best Supporting Actress tends to be the most overlooked of the acting fields. It is also known to have some big upsets, although it has been lopsided lately. Last year, Mo’Nique went wire-to-wire for the win, and dominated from Sundance on. However, this year has been much more wide open, and largely devoid of a clear picture.
While the Actor, Actress and Supporting Actor categories already have favorites and showdowns set, the Oscar field for Best Supporting Actress is more in flux. Even with names like Helena Bonham Carter, Dianne Wiest, Miranda Richardson, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo thrown around, none of them have overwhelming buzz yet. This makes it the most wide open of the major Oscar races, yet it may make it the most overlooked one as well.
Wiest is in contention for what could be her third Best Supporting Actress Oscar, while Leo could have her second straight nomination overall. Carter is riding “The King’s Speech” wave, while Adams contends for the third nomination of her young career. However, none has jumped out above the rest, with Leo and Adams perhaps set to cancel each other out for “The Fighter.” “Another Year’s” Lesley Manville seems set for the lead category, while NBR winner Jacki Weaver from “Animal Kingdom” serves as the wild card.
Yet the biggest change may come from a 14-year-old girl making her acting debut. “True Grit” has been the final mystery of the Oscar season in general, until it finally unveiled days ago. While there are still questions on how big of a threat the movie is, its new star may have already jumped over the whole Best Supporting Actress field.
Hailee Steinfeld has become the biggest talking point of “True Grit,” moreso than Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and even Jeff Bridges and the Coens. Her massive raves from the early reviews may be the beginning of her Oscar campaign. That alone would elevate this category, as a 14-year-old contending for her first movie is rather buzz-worthy.
If “American Idol” runner-up Jennifer Hudson could win in her acting debut, and a stand-up comic could blow out the competition last year, a 14-year-old stands as good a chance as any. Since few in the field have broken out yet, and pundits have struggled to even find five nominees, Steinfeld could be the clear favorite if her momentum keeps climbing.
The other Oscar acting categories have a head start, as Best Actor has already been reduced to Firth vs James Franco, Best Actress is seemingly between Bening and Natalie Portman, and Supporting Actor may be between Bale and Rush. Yet the major talking points and battles for Best Supporting Actress still aren’t clear yet – which may be a rare throwback to when things weren’t decided in December.
Nevertheless, this makes the category easier to overlook these days, at least until the critics awards finally preordain a favorite. In lue of Carter, Wiest and “The Fighter” women, Steinfeld appears to be the next great hope for some true grit in this race.
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