Last year, Meryl Streep took home Oscar number three, emerging victorious on a list of incredible vets. Well, this year the picture looks quite different. It’s mostly time for the fresher faces in Hollywood to get a shot, but you can only half say that, as the category also boasts the oldest and youngest nominees in the Best Actress category — ever.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
- (20%) Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
- (37%) Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
- (30%) Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
- (5%) Quvenzhané Wallis – ”Beasts of the Southern Wild”
- (8%) Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Let’s go from youngest to oldest — for kicks. Quvenzhané Wallis is nine years old and snagged a nomination in her acting debut for “Beasts.” She gives my favorite performance of the year, but I’m partial to the film and the style. Still, if any child actor deserved to win as opposed to just being nominated, I think it’s her, just based on all the nominees in recent history who were youths. All that said, she stands the least chance of winning.
Next oldest is Jennifer Lawrence, who at 22 years old would still be the second youngest winner of the award. She was the winner of the SAG Award and took home a Golden Globe as well, though she was nominated in the Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical category. So much awards season buzz has been on Lawrence, who recently hosted “Saturday Night Live” and has charmed everyone with her humorous yet heartfelt acceptance speeches. With the Weinsteins behind her, she figures to win, but it won’t be simple.
The media has painted Jessica Chastain as Lawrence’s rival, though despite being up-and-comers they’re quite far apart in age (Chastain is 35). The actress grabbed a majority of critics awards for playing the anonymous woman behind the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The two were expected to go down to the wire, but so much negative press for “Zero Dark Thirty” has rubbed off on her that few expect her to win.
Next oldest is Naomi Watts, 44, who has regularly been a part of the Oscar conversation since December. “The Impossible,” however, never took off in terms of word of mouth or box office success, and despite raves for her performance, Watts has consequently been overshadowed.
If you double Watts’ age, you barely overtake the age of French octogenarian Emmanuelle Riva, who at 85 would be the oldest winner of this category, beating Jessica Tandy who was “just” 80 when she won for “Driving Miss Daisy.” She would also eclipse Christopher Plummer, just a year after his win, for oldest winner ever.
Many prognosticators sniff an upset for Riva, who has been recognized more and more lately despite having a lot of supporters during the early part of awards season in December. She won the BAFTA award over Chastain and Lawrence, and the BAFTAs and Oscars have been on the same page all but four times since 2000. Still, BAFTA has shown a bias toward British and non-American actors in cases when the race was close.
I still think Lawrence slides by because of the incredible year she’s had. This also might be the only Oscar “Silver Linings” gets despite audience love for the film.