Awards season is almost over! In my continuing coverage of the Academy Awards, this week’s post focuses on the actresses nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. So far this awards season, Supporting Actress has been dominated by crowd favorite Octavia Spencer, and Best Actress is shaping up to be a showdown between Viola Davis and the indomitable Meryl Streep. It will be interesting to see who ends up taking home the Oscar!
Glenn Close  in Albert Nobbs: Nominated for her performance as Albert Nobbs, a woman living as a man in order to find work in 1800’s Ireland, this is Close’s sixth Oscar nomination. Close previously played this role on the stage in the early 1980’s and was awarded an Obie for her efforts. Despite her nuanced, critically acclaimed performance, an Oscar win, though well deserved, is unlikely this year.
Viola Davis  in The Help : Nominated for her role as the maid Aibileen, this is Davis’ second Oscar nomination. The soul of the film, Davis gives an honest, quiet performance in a widely popular blockbuster hit. Although Davis lost the Golden Globe and the BAFTA to Meryl Streep, her most significant competition this awards season, she did take home the SAG. The popularity of the film as a whole and Davis’ strong performance in it could give Davis the push she needs to win.
Rooney Mara  in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A relative newcomer in Hollywood, this is Mara’s first Oscar nomination. As Lisbeth Salander, Mara fully inhabited her character, undergoing an extreme physical transformation. She successfully brought a quiet intensity and vulnerability to an otherwise dynamic character. Although Mara’s nomination was well deserved, she is the underdog in a category full of veteran actresses.
Meryl Streep  in The Iron Lady: Since her first Oscar nomination for The Deer Hunter in 1978, Meryl Streep has been nominated 17 times, more than any other actor in the history of the Academy Awards. Her ability to fully inhabit any part she plays has allowed her to tackle a wide range of challenging roles throughout her career. Streep’s most recent nomination is for her powerful portrayal of the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. However, it could easily be argued that Streep’s performance was the only thing holding the movie together, something that might, in the end, hinder Academy voters.
Michelle Williams  in My Week with Marilyn : Nominated for her performance as Marilyn Monroe, this is Williams’ third Oscar nomination. In a masterful transformation, Williams fully embodied Marilyn: her mannerisms and appearance, her flirty public persona and intimate off-screen moments. Unfortunately, in a category dominated by older women, it seems likely that the Academy will hold off on awarding Williams with a well deserved Oscar until later in her career.
Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo  in The Artist: A relative unknown in America, Bejo is nominated for her performance as Peppy Miller, an actress who rises to Hollywood stardom after the transition to talking pictures. Her silent performance is not nearly as layered as Jean Dujardin’s, but she is by turns winsome and conflicted. However, despite nominations for a Golden Globe, a SAG and a BAFTA, Bejo has yet to take home a significant award. It will be interesting to see if this holds true at the Academy Awards, or if The Artist makes a clean sweep.
Jessica Chastain  in The Help : In 2011, Chastain exploded onto the silver screen with critically acclaimed performances in six movies, two of which (The Help  and The Tree of Life) have garnered her multiple nominations and wins on the awards circuit. Her outstanding, layered performance as society woman Celia Foote was particularly well received. However, some feel she was nominated for the wrong movie, which could hurt her chance at an Oscar. Even if she doesn’t win this year, it is likely we will see Chastain again in future.
Melissa McCarthy  in Bridesmaids : Primarily known for her work in television, McCarthy’s nomination was a pleasant surprise. Nominated for her honest performance as the sister of the groom, she successfully turned what could have been a generic comic character into a something far more sympathetic. Unfortunately, it is rare that comedic performances are recognized at the Oscars and McCarthy’s chances of winning in such a strong dramatic category are slim.
Janet McTeer  in Albert Nobbs: Nominated for her role as Hubert Page, a woman living as a man in order to find work in 1800’s Ireland, this is McTeer’s second Oscar nomination. In a category that is generally known for surprise nominations and wins, her inclusion still came as a shock in a year with many outstanding supporting performances. Despite McTeer’s critically acclaimed, impressive performance, she is an underdog in a category dominated by one nominee.
Octavia Spencer  in The Help : Nominated for her role as the sassy maid Minny, this is Spencer’s first Oscar nomination. Her performance ranges from quiet and controlled to brash and outspoken and, with wins at the Golden Globes, the SAG awards and the BAFTAs, Spencer is the woman to beat. However, there are always a few surprises at the Oscars, and the Academy is notorious for shaking things up in the Supporting Actress category.
So far this year, I’ve only seen two of the movies represented in the Actress and Supporting Actress categories, but that doesn’t stop me from rooting for my favorites! Who would you like to see take home the Best Actress & Best Supporting Actress Oscars this year? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for an Academy Awards follow-up post next week!
The Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 26th at 7:00pm on ABC.