Best Supporting Actress
Cameron Diaz - "The Counselor"
She deserved one for "Being John Malkovich," but Cameron Diaz has never had an Oscar nomination, partly because her more dramatic fare ("In Her Shoes," "My Sister's Keeper") have tended to perform and be received less well than her comedies. But Diaz has one of the most sought-after roles in recent memory, as the tempestuous and Machiavellian Malinka, the girlfriend of Javier Bardem's Reiner, in Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy's brutal crime tale "The Counselor." It's a role that, on the page, is as memorable as Bardem's in "No Country For Old Men," and we have to confess that we were surprised and a bit baffled at Diaz's casting (it would have made much more sense to us if she and Penelope Cruz swapped roles). But if she can pull it off -- and early whispers suggest that she might have -- she'll make people think of her in a whole new light, and get at least a nomination in the process.
Unjustly excluded for her excellent performance in "Shame," Carey Mulligan is back in a big way in 2013. And while she might figure in with "The Great Gatsby," our money says that she'll make more of an impact with the Coen Brothers' latest, "Inside Llewyn Davis." The trailer suggests the actress has a particular knack for the duo's dialogue, and shows yet another side to the versatile star. There's some question of whether she could campaign as lead for the part -- she plays the wife of folk singer Justin Timberlake, who has an affair of sorts with the title character, played by Oscar Isaac -- but we think that her chances would be better here in such a tough year for Best Actress. But again, the question mark is whether CBS Films are able to campaign effectively for the film, having never really competed in the awards season.
Mulligan also features in "The Great Gatsby," as Daisy, but let's be honest, the character isn't quite as interesting as Myrtle, the unstable, tragic mistress of Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), Daisy's husband. And as such, we think that Isla Fisher has a strong chance of recognition this time. Fisher has always shone, even when she's had ropey material, but by getting to step away from the comedy work she's best known for, she's more likely to get attention. But the film was always going to be divisive, and it's possible it won't work at all, which would harm her chances, and a summer release would make it doubly tricky to last a long awards season. We'll see how it turns out in May. Another possibility is Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, but that's a somewhat less substantial role.
Again, "August: Osage County" is positively stuffed with potential acting nominees, and as with Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress has multiple potentials, including Juliette Lewis and Abigail Breslin. But we think that the best chance will come from one of two sources: A-lister Julia Roberts or character actress Margo Martindale. The former obviously has the star power, and the more crucial role of Barbara, the controlling oldest daughter of Violet Weston (Meryl Streep). But Martindale (a recent Emmy winner for her amazing turn on "Justified") might have more fun with her part, as Mattie Fae Aiken, Violet's sister. The role won original cast member Rondi Reed a Tony for the part, and we wonder if the Academy might end up following suit. But the risk is that votes could be split between the various roles in the film, unless one clear choice emerges.
Amy Adams has been nominated in the Supporting Actress category more than any of her contemporaries -- her nod for "The Master" marked her fourth -- but somehow, she never won. Could that change with her reunion with David O Russell, with whom she earned her third nod for "The Fighter"? While Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence is also in the cast as Christian Bale's wife, it's a much smaller role than Adams' -- who plays his mistress -- and with less to it. Adams' role is described when she's introduced as "Ann Margaret meets Dorothy Parker," and we suspect that Adams will kill in the part. Will her fifth nomination finally see her rewarded with the statue?