Best-actress virtual roundtable: Jennifer Lawrence leads , potential for Emmanuelle Riva upset
Photo: Summit/Weinstein/Columbia/Fox Searchlight/Sony Pictures Classics
Four days before the Oscars, and what was once a two-woman best-actress race between Jennifer Lawrence ("Silver Linings Playbook") and Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") has had a major hiccup. Lawrence now leads the pack. Chastain has tumbled. And, surprise, "Amour" octogenarian Emmanuelle Riva could take the Oscar in a last-minute upset. Meanwhile, Naomi Watts ("The Impossible") and Quvenzhané Wallis ("The Beasts of the Southern Wild") don't stand a chance. Here's the dish from our virtual roundtable:
Peter Knegt (Indiewire): Riva -- who will turn 86 years old on Oscar night -- represents a rare case where she's both a sentimental choice and the most deserving winner. If voters actually see "Amour," Riva could very well take that Oscar from Lawrence (Chastain is third in my book at this point). The BAFTA win for Riva certainly makes that a stronger possibility.
Carla Stockton (freelance writer): I personally loved Chastain's work in "Zero Dark Thirty," but the character lacks depth, and as a result the portrayal lacked dimension. I am with Peter Knegt: She's third. If I were to exercise my own bias here, I'd probably vote for Jennifer Lawrence, whom I've favored to win since "Winter's Bone." She brings uncanny depth to this character without any of the overacting antics of older, wiser actors whose names shall remain undisclosed but who beat her the last time.
However, from an artistically objective point of view, I know that Emmanuelle Riva should probably win. She was amazing, honest, and fearless in all her choices while being death-defyingly committed to her character. I have never been sure why Watts was nominated; I liked her in "The Impossible," but just because she suffers well and looks longingly with distinction; her character seemed cardboardy flat to me.
I have not yet seen "Beasts," but I have a problem awarding an untrained newcomer for falling into a role and being a natural for it. Most of the children who preceded adorable little Ms. Wallis in winning such awards had been working on their craft for some time already and were not accidental winners. Oscar gold is a huge weight to put on a kid's shoulders (remember what happened to Tatum?) and should at least be conferred on a child who already understands the nature of the work ahead.
Jordan Bayne (writer, director, producer): I am a Jessica Chastain devotee, loving all of her work. However, I would agree with the others; I think she is running at third. I love JLaw , did not love "Silver Linings Playbook." But I agree with Carla, she is grounded and carries a wisdom well beyond her years, which makes watching her compelling. My pick -- Riva -- would be both well-deserved and a glorious win.
Trey Speegle (formerly of "Us Weekly," now an independent artist): It sounds weird to say, but my speculations on performances aside ... my picks are for who will win, not who should win. Naomi Watts doesn't have a snowball's chance. I think having the oldest and the youngest nominees in 9-year-old Wallis and 86-year-old Riva kinda cancel each other out, so I don't think the sentimental vote is happening. That leaves Lawrence and Chastain. Both actresses and their nominated films have heat going into the final stretch, but I'd give the edge to Lawrence, too. Why? The most trusted of all reasons: a hunch.