2014 Oscar Power Rankings: Best Actress (Oct. 21)
With all due respect to ‘The Fifth Estate,’ the only real Oscar contender to open in theaters last weekend (in limited release) was Steve McQueen’s uncompromising, emotional ‘12 Years a Slave.’ Now that audiences are starting to gain access to this visceral commentary on American slavery, you can begin to understand why it is carving out a place on the top of several of our charts.
Over the past few weeks, though, more contenders have reached theaters, from ‘Captain Phillips’ to ‘Gravity’ and ‘All Is Lost.’ Have the charts changed? Are the shifts drastic? Let’s catch up on the latest frontrunners in our major Oscar categories.
Meryl Streep, ‘August: Osage County’
Streep officially transitioned back to Best Actress (while her ‘August: Osage County’ co-star Julia Roberts shifted to Supporting). Having seen John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, I can tell you that Streep -- playing the manipulative mother pulling everyone’s strings during a reunion – is every bit the destructive force you’d want her to be. Does she have enough to win a record-setting fourth Oscar? She’d be a lock, if the Academy hadn’t recently thrown her a statue for ‘The Iron Lady.’
Cate Blanchett, ‘Blue Jasmine’
I keep going back and forth between Streep and Blanchett in this category. Now watch, neither one will be nominated. But at the moment, I think it boils down to a three-way race (with ‘Gravity’ star Sandra Bullock certainly contending), though Emma Thompson could throw yet another curveball into this race. As crumbling ex-socialite Jasmine, Blanchett gives the finest performance we’ve seen from a Woody Allen performance in years (and possibly ever). The final scene, of Jasmine on a park bench, continues to haunt. Blanchett will be there on Oscar night for ‘Blue Jasmine.’
Sandra Bullock, ‘Gravity’
‘Gravity’ is a director’s film. Alfonso Cuaron’s technical accomplishment is mind-blowing. And yet, Bullock gives us the human portal we need in order to tag along on this spectacular ride. As fledgling astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone, Bullock anchors a free-floating space adventure, giving us someone to root for as Cuaron keeps flipping over his metaphorical tables. The whole movie’s a breathtaking experience, and I think Bullock can ride the film’s momentum to her second Oscar nomination.
Emma Thompson, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’
‘Banks’ officially is off and running. John Lee Hancock’s movie-magic drama finally screened for a wider audience as it prepared to close the London Film Festival (and, later, play AFI Fest in Los Angeles). It has been labeled a crowd-pleaser and an awards contender, but most of the talk swirled around Thompson’s turn as prickly author P.L. Travers. “The movie itself became a source of real joy, enlivened by work from Thompson that should attract awards attention,” the London Telegraph writes. That’s why we’ve had her here all along!
Judi Dench, ‘Philomena’
Sometimes Oscar bait succeeds in catching the Academy’s attention. Stephen Frears’ ‘Philomena’ took Venice by storm, putting Dame Judi Dench on the Oscar map. She could stay there, though the role doesn’t challenge her the way Blanchett and Streep were taxed in their features. Dench plays a mother trying to locate the child who was taken away from her years earlier. Frears helmed ‘The Queen,’ which powered Helen Mirren to her Best Actress win. Could he do the same with Dench this year?