Oscar Patrol: Best Actress, Nine Weeks Left of People Disappearing Into Their Roles

tim_grierson
The Projector
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The 2012 Oscar nominations come out on Tuesday, January 24, exactly nine weeks from today. That's still a long ways away, but when it comes to Best Actress we feel like the race is already focusing on two (or maybe three) performances. On one hand, you've got Viola Davis from "The Help," but on the other you've got Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady" and Michelle Williams in "My Week With Marilyn." What bonds those two performances is that, when everybody praises either one of them, all you hear is how the actress "disappears" into the role. This is code for "This famous actress played a famous person, and all I could see was the famous person!" We suppose that constitutes good acting, right? We've broken down the Best Actress field once before, right after the Toronto Film Festival, which now seems a billion years ago. Let's dig in again, with the "Locks," those "On The Bubble," those "Still Holding Out Hope" and the poor souls who will have to make do with the "For Your Consideration" ads.

LOCKS

Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady." To wit: "At some point while watching [Streep] in the film you forget completely that you're watching Meryl Streep doing Margaret Thatcher and you feel like you are really watching Margaret Thatcher." But is there any chance people will take Streep's chameleon-like talents for granted? After all, diving into her roles is sort of what she always does.

ON THE BUBBLE

Viola Davis, "The Help." Does "The Help" feel too old now? Probably not. Those who love the movie love her in it. And even those who can't stand the movie like her in it.

Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn." The Weinstein are pushing hard on the fact that Williams went through a lot of work to become Marilyn Monroe. The consensus is the movie's just OK, but she's great in it. We're wondering if the film needs a Best Picture nomination to really cement her chance at the prize.

Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs." Close has the same problem Williams has, except worse. Folks are decidedly mixed on "Albert Nobbs" as a whole, and Close's performance, while praised for its technique, is badmouthed as little more than a gimmick by some.

STILL HOLDING OUT HOPE

Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin." A real actor's piece. Also, an unflinching film about child-rearing, tragedy, and grief. We have a feeling she'll be battling for that fifth spot, but first voters need to be willing to give this small film a look.

Charlize Theron, "Young Adult." Or is this too much of a comedy for the Academy?

Sandra Bullock, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." Nobody's seen the movie, so this could be a major sleeper.

Zana Marjanovic, "In The Land of Blood and Honey." Another unseen question mark in the race. Is the fact that it's foreign-language going to be a problem? It wasn't for Marion Cotillard with "La Vie en Rose." Also, that trailer screams Oscar contender.

INCLUDED SO THEY'LL KEEP BUYING FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION ADS

Ellen Barkin, "Another Happy Day."
Olivia Colman, "Tyrannosaur"
Kirsten Dunst, "Melancholia."
Jodie Foster, "Carnage."
Felicity Jones, "Like Crazy."
Keira Knightley, "A Dangerous Method."
Rooney Mara, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."
Elizabeth Olsen, "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
Saoirse Ronan, "Hanna."
Mia Wasikowska, "Jane Eyre."
Michelle Yeoh, "The Lady."

(Next Week: Best Supporting Actor.)