Oscars 2014: Predicting 10 Best Actress Nominees

Nicole Kidman Grace of Monaco It's an annual cliche to proclaim the field of potential Best Actress nominations as "weak". Unfortunately, it's a cliche I happen to believe is true. Now before all you contrarians stout spouting off a list of under-appreciated, little-known performances from actresses in small independent films that I'm sure are all very lovely, let's take stock in both what I am saying and in the facts themselves. First of all, to accept the premise that the field of potential Best Actress nominees in recent years has been weak does not necessarily translate into a condemnation of our current crop of female thespians. In fact, personally, I blame the dearth of strong female roles on unimaginative writers, who can't seem to concoct any purpose for female characters other than to serve as objects of sexual desire for their male counterparts. In terms of ability and talent, I have no doubt that given the same opportunities, today's crop of actresses would prove themselves just as capable as the actresses of the "Golden Age" of cinema. Interestingly, on somewhat of a side note, actresses seemed to flourish most under the studio system of the 1930's and 1940's, when the race for the Best Actress Oscar was commonly filled with the likes of Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Olivia de Havilland, and Greer Garson, just to name a few. If you breeze through news articles of the time, you'll find that second only to Best Picture, the race for Best Actress was the most anticipated race. This is a statement I would find hard to sincerely make in the last few years. Now in terms of facts and cold hard statistics, I also find it fascinating that over the last decade, 26 of the Best Actor nominees came from performances that occurred in Best Picture nominees while only 15 of the Best Actress performances were in films accompanied by Best Picture nominations. While great performances can obviously happen in films that don't manage a Best Picture nomination (Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight for one recent example), I do think generally speaking, there tends to be a correlation between good, memorable performances and the quality of a movie. The fact that so relatively few Best Actress nominees appeared in films with corresponding Best Picture nominees I think bespeaks to the scarcity of quality female performances over the last decade. (If you don't believe me, browse the 2000's Best Actress nominees and see how many of these films you still hold in high regard). Regardless of whether you agree with my analyst of the Best Actress nominees of the 2000's and beyond, I think it's safe to say that when examining the extremely recent trends in actress nominees, there is some reason for hope. Particularly, looking at the list of likely Best Actress nominees for the coming year makes me optimistic about the future performances from some of our current ranks of leading ladies. Whether it's the group of up-and-coming young starlets such as Emma Watson, Rooney Mara, Elizabeth Olsen, Shailene Woodley, Jessica Chastain, and the current reigning champion, Jennifer Lawrence (who has two strong potential releases in 2013), or the crop of more distinguished veteran thespians like Kate Winslett, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, and Miss 17-timer herself, Meryl Streep, there appears to be a lot of potentially strong performances in contention for this year's Best Actress Oscar. It wasn't all that easy then, but I've managed to narrow the contenders down to the ten highest potential nominees given where we stand at this moment in time. Be on the lookout too for my next 2014 Oscar preview which will dissect the current field of Best Supporting Actor nominees. Click "next" below to begin...
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A film fanatic at a very young age, starting with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies and gradually moving up to more sophisticated fare, at around the age of ten he became inexplicably obsessed with all things Oscar. With the incredibly trivial power of being able to chronologically name every Best Picture winner from memory, his lifelong goal is to see every Oscar nominated film, in every major category, in the history of the Academy Awards.