2013 Oscar Predictions: Chastain Threatens Lawrence’s Front-Runner Status in Best Actress Race

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Photo: Columbia Pictures

The race for Best Actress finally has some heat as presumptions Jessica Chastain was a major contender for her role in Zero Dark Thirty seem to have been confirmed, which means Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) has some competition to contend with, and perhaps will soon find herself in the runner-up role.

I have yet to see Zero Dark Thirty but that will all be changing soon enough, which is why Chastain sits in the #2 slot rather than at #1 right now. I need to see the film for myself before buying into the hype and replacing Lawrence at #1, a position she has held since Silver Linings premiered in Toronto back in September. That said, the competition between the two is an interesting one, with Chastain playing the stoic CIA agent versus Lawrence, as a troubled widow in a comedic drama. Many will surely look at the more serious role as the one deserving of the award, overlooking just how effective Lawrence is in Silver Linings. I say this, of course, not having seen Zero Dark, but human nature is pretty easy to predict, even if the Oscars always aren’t.

In third, Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) remains a safe bet, but beyond that things get a little tougher, especially with a new addition to the fray.

First we must consider Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), both of which give two of the best performances of the year, but can two foreign language nominees find their way in? I previously had Helen Mirren at #4 for Hitchcock but reviews on that film haven’t been entirely ecstatic and with Chastain moving into the top five something had to give.

Then there’s Naomi Watts (The Impossible), whom many pundits are trying to push, which actually has me believing her chances are diminishing and it appears Keira Knightly and Anna Karenina are going to have to be happy with craft nominations as the majors seem unlikely at this point.

Then we get to the new addition to the list of contenders.

Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere) was just nominated for an Indie Spirit Award and won Breakthrough Actor at the Gotham Awards over Wallis. I finally had a chance to see the film and Corinealdi does give a great performance, but it’s a film and a performance that is going to depend on more early season buzz and wins to gain enough attention for the Academy to stand up and take notice. It doesn’t have a major studio backing its Oscar push, which always makes things tough… the situation reminds me of all the love Michelle Williams was getting for Wendy and Lucy only to find Oscilloscope couldn’t drum up enough buzz for her to become a major contender. Will Corinealdi be able to break through?

As of now my top five looks like this:

  1. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
  2. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
  3. Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  4. Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
  5. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

It’s a strong field of performances for sure and you can see my full field of eleven contenders and where they rank right here.

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