As more and more of this year's would-be Oscar contenders have been screened, Oscar pundits are starting to declare their favorites. MCN's Gurus 'o Gold makes the following Best Actress picks:
1. Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
2. Julie Christie Away from Her
3. Keira Knightley Atonement
4. Ellen Page Juno
5. Cate Blanchett Elizabeth: The Golden Age tie
5. Angelina Jolie A Mighty Heart tie
7. Laura Linney The Savages
8. Halle Berry Things We Lost in the Fire
9. Cate Blanchett I'm Not There
10. Julia Roberts Charlie Wilson's War
This list seems on the mark to me, given where things stand now, although The Weinstein Co. will campaign for Blanchett, whose cover photo on this weekend's New York Times Magazine didn't hurt, for supporting for I'm Not There. In the end, the actress race is competitive enough that if Elizabeth: The Golden Age falters with critics or audiences, popular as she is, Blanchett could fall out. [Here's her LAT profile by Rachel Abramowitz.] She should have won the first time! It's hard to come back in a sequel. The first Elizabeth was a classy art film. The second is more of a rousing entertainment (with fabulous sets and costumes). Although Elizabeth did not play well with critics in Toronto, Universal has plenty of sizzle to sell to moviegoers hungry for a period spectacle.
Boston Herald blogger Stephen Schaefer lets fly on the Best Actress race: MY RESPONSES TO HIS PICKS ARE IN CAPS.
JULIE CHRISTIE, ‚ÄúAway from Her‚Äù The brightest, most enigmatic star of the ‚Äò60s has retained her luster and her acting chops as this low-key Canadian Alzheimer‚Äôs drama proves. Hardly a blockbuster, the spring release is on DVD making it accessible to Academy voters. A sentimental favorite. AGREED.
MARION COTILLARD, ‚ÄúLa Vie en Rose‚Äù They probably should inscribe the Oscar statuette now. Who can possibly come along to match one of the most jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring pieces of work of this or any year? As Edith Piaf, Cotillard not only ages from youthful sprite to a nearly unrecognizable, arthritic crone but masterfully lip syncs the Little Sparrow‚Äôs recordings and then, as if that was simply the warm-up, proceeds to devastatingly etch the triumphs and tragedies of a life that, had it not been lived, would have been called fiction. I AGREE SHE'LL GET NOMINATED, BUT ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
HALLE BERRY, ‚ÄúThings We Lost in the Fire‚Äù As the slightly eccentric widow who invites her dead husband‚Äôs longtime friend, a recovering junkie, to live with her and her two young children, Berry reminds us how delicate and powerful an actress she can be in the right circumstances. A lot will depend on whether anyone goes to see this smart, resolutely low-key character study. THIS NOMINATION SEEMS IFFIER. THIS SMALL, HEARTFELT, PRECISE DRAMA COULD GET LOST IN THE CROWDED FRAY. BERRY'S COSTAR BENICIO DEL TORO SEEMS MORE LIKELY.
JODIE FOSTER, ‚ÄúThe Brave One‚Äù The two-time Oscar winner stumbled at the box-office with this revenge drama whose in-your-face physical violence and downbeat reviews were probable factors in its failure to attract mass moviegoers. How that will affect Academy voters remains to be seen. Will they be repelled by Foster‚Äôs ferocity? The damage done to her in the bruising attack that leaves her fianc√© dead? THIS IS NOT HAPPENING, EVEN FOR POPULAR OSCAR PERENNIAL FOSTER. SADLY MIS-MARKETED, THE BRAVE ONE IS PERCEIVED AS A TOO-VIOLENT VIGILANTE MOVIE. IT HAS TURNED OFF BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, AND DID NOT PLAY WELL FOR THE ACADEMY.
Buzzed about but yet to be seen: Michelle Pfeiffer, ‚ÄúI Could Never Be Your Woman‚Äù; Keira Knightley, ‚ÄúAtonement‚Äù; Julia Roberts, ‚ÄúCharlie Wilson‚Äôs War‚Äù; Laura Linney, ‚ÄúThe Savages‚Äù; Helena Bonham Carter, ‚ÄúSweeney Todd.‚Äù MY HUNCH IS THAT OF THIS GROUP, KNIGHTLEY, WHO WAS NOMINATED FOR PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, COULD WIND UP IN THE TOP FIVE, ESPECIALLY SINCE ATONEMENT WILL BE A ROBUST CONTENDER IN ALL CATEGORIES. LINNEY IS AN ACTORS' FAVE BUT FOX SEARCHLIGHT NEEDS TO BRING SUNDANCE HIT THE SAVAGES BACK INTO THE SPOTLIGHT. UNTIL WE SEE THE OTHER FILMS IT'S HARD TO JUDGE.
OUT OF THE RUNNING: Cate Blanchett, ‚ÄúElizabeth: The Golden Age‚Äù; Reese Witherspoon, ‚ÄúRendition‚Äù; Charlize Theron, ‚ÄúIn the Valley of Elah‚Äù; Michelle Pfeiffer, ‚ÄúStardust‚Äù; Nicole Kidman, ‚ÄúMargot at the Wedding.‚Äù AGREED, BUT IF CRITICS AND SMART-HOUSE AUDIENCES COME THROUGH FOR MARGOT AT THE WEDDING AND KIDMAN, SHE COULD BE A LONG SHOT. IT'S A LAYERED SOPHISTICATED PERFORMANCE THAT THE ACTORS SHOULD APPRECIATE. THINK SHIRLEY MACLAINE AS AURORA GREENWAY IN TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.
Oddly, Schaefer does not mention Angelina Jolie. Vantage will campaign for her when A Mighty Heart, which was well-reviewed, is released on DVD. Actors will likely recognize the caliber of her performance as Mariane Pearl. On the other hand, it's a crowded field and the movie did not score at the boxoffice. How many people will watch this difficult subject on DVD? That is the question.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]