Unlike the men in the race, it's almost a no contest among women. Put your money on Jessica Chastain for Best Actress and Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress. Here's why, says Sudhish Kamath
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Given that the film may not win because of its insinuation that it was torture that led the CIA to Osama Bin Laden, Jessica Chastain who plays Maya, the CIA agent heading the hunt, will win not just as a compensation but also because she has the toughest role in the category. A woman more macho than most men. Not only does she swear like the foulest of men, she also has nerves of steel and is a picture of resolve, faith and determination. Besides, it helps that she was nominated before and didn’t win. The Academy compensates.
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
As Anne, an aging Alzheimer’s patient, this lady is so effortlessly fantastic in this unusual, understated romance drama. One minute she's a loving, caring wife and the next, she freezes and stares into nothingness, her face so empty and vacant — it's a movie moment that can send a chill down your spine. And Riva lends the character a great amount of grace and dignity, refusing your sympathy. First-time nominees need to be really lucky to win but, it just happens that this year, Chastain already has her name written on it.
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
As a Tsunami survivor Maria, Naomi Watts gets the most physically and emotionally exhausting role in the category. Unfortunately though, her role in The Impossible is limited. Completely deglamourised, the stunner looks her ugliest in the film and does bring a tear to the eye a couple of times. But given that the make-up and visual effects are so overpowering (it's impossible to even conceive how they shot her tumbling down the water like that, almost like the ocean current put her inside a huge washing machine), her performance might be overlooked.
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
As Tiffany, a feisty young widow, Jennifer Lawrence is all fire and ice in this romantic comedy. But yes, it's a romantic comedy at the end of the day! And the Academy hasn't been too kind to romcoms in the past. But Jennifer Lawrence should take heart in the fact that she at least got nominated. Also, this is the second time she will not win after being nominated and that usually means she has a much better chance the third time around no matter what the role is.
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
As Hushpuppy, this child actor stole many hearts already. She's a darling at the festivals. Everybody loves a kid who says the cutest things. And it's a pretty good performance too in a film that she mostly shoulders. But when an independent film gets nominated among a few heavyweights, it is often considered to be the reward rather than the prize itself. Hushpuppy may not win the prize but she has a lot of time to keep coming back to Kodak theatre.
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
She's done everything for an Oscar. She once even made a joke about it while hosting the Academy awards, after she didn't get nominated for Love, And Other Drugs, despite baring all. “It used to be you get naked, you get nominated.” Earlier, she didn't win for Rachel Get Married, despite getting nominated and it being the most complex role that year for any actress to take on. But this year, she acts, she sings, she makes you care. Even if it's just an extended cameo, it seems perfectly scripted to win her the prize. As the mother who loses her job and has to sell herself for her child, Fantine will win.
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
As a sex surrogate, Cheryl, who is facilitating a disabled polio survivor to have sex, Helen Hunt is mostly naked in this film. Play back that Anne Hathaway joke about nudity and nomination again. They heard you, Anne. It still works. Hunt is pretty effective in the role too, but this is a role that, except for a couple of scenes towards the end, requires very little of her apart from being uninhibited about her body. She might just be second time unlucky after being nominated earlier for As Good As It Gets.
Amy Adams (The Master)
We can only hope the Academy doesn't just give out awards to compensate all the time. Because this is Amy's fourth nomination in eight years and she hasn't won yet. But please, this is hardly a role that deserves a prize. It's a role Amy could do in her sleep. It's a role Sunny Leone could do even without acting lessons. As Peggy Dodd, the wife of the leader of The Cause, Amy probably just got points for holding her own against Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The nomination more than rewards that.
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
What is it with Silver Linings Playbook and acting awards? It's a light-hearted romantic comedy that is slightly better than most comedies Hollywood makes. Jackie Weaver, playing Dolores, the typical Hollywood mother type, has a small role, screen time just a little longer than Anupam Kher in this film. Yes, she is a pretty solid actress who shines in a scene or two, but this nomination just shows a dearth of good supporting roles. Or that someone bought acting awards in bulk for Playbook.
Sally Field (Lincoln)
As Mary Todd Lincoln, the President's wife and a grieving mother, Sally Field is superb in her rather limited role in this Daniel Day Lewis acting showcase. With not much screen time, it is unlikely that the veteran will win unless the Academy wants to spring a major surprise and give Lincoln every prize possible. Also consider the fact that she's won twice in as many nominations before.
Come on Sally, let Anne have it this year.