With the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor Guild already pulling back the curtain on this year’s group of nominees, it will soon be time for the Academy of Arts & Sciences to do the same. This six part series will look at each of the main categories and break down the frontrunners and dark horses of this Oscar season.
Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”)
Portman earned her first nomination in 2005 for “Closer,” a role that won her a Golden Globe. While not all of her dramatic roles have been as well received, her batting average is still very high and “Black Swan,” definitely reaffirms why she should be taken seriously. 2011 is going to be a big year for the talented actress.
Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”)
Despite three Oscar nominations and seven Golden Globes, Bening has only walked away a winner once. While her Oscar defeats can mostly be attributed to Hilary Swank (who could also be in contention again this year), the difference this season is that Swank’s Oscar-bait movies (“Amelia” & “Conviction”) both tanked and Bening’s “The Kids Are All Right” has been well-liked since its release. Bening’s biggest competition could be her co-star Julianne Moore.
Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”)
Kidman has been off the grid as of late, but her role as a grieving mother has put her back on the radar. It should come as no surprise when she earns her third nomination, especially coming off of both Golden Globe and Screen Actor Guild nominations.
Julianne Moore (“The Kids Are All Right”)
While both Moore and Bening are co-stars in “Kids,” Bening is the one generating more of the Oscar talk. Be that as it may, it would still be hard to write off Moore as she has four Academy Award nominations to her name.
Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”)
Don’t be surprised if Jennifer Lawrence’s name is called out on nomination morning. Her performance as a teenage mother searching the Ozarks for her deadbeat father has placed her front and center in one of the highest profile races of the year. The star of “Winter’s Bone,” Lawrence first really broke through as Bill Engvall’s daughter on his TBS sitcom, but with a few higher profile roles up ahead she won’t be as unknown for long.
Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”)
Williams burst onto the scene in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” opposite her one-time fiancée Heath Ledger. Both Ledger and Williams earned a nomination for the film, but neither walked away with the award. “Blue Valentine” could be the film to give the young actress another shot at a win.
The Dark Horses:
Halle Berry (“Frankie & Alice”)
When Halle Berry won this award in 2002, it was for “Monster’s Ball,” a movie very few people had seen. Ironically, she could very well pull off that feat again in 2011 with another movie very few people have seen. While earning a nomination for a film with limited buzz is typically hard, Berry has done it before. Could she repeat?
Anne Hathaway (“Love & Other Drugs”)
Hathaway was already generating Oscar talk before it was announced she was co-hosting this year’s telecast. So why is she only a dark horse? “Love & Other Drugs” under-performed at the box office and many critics were actually turned off by Hathaway’s frequent nudity in the film. Normally something like that wouldn’t act as a counter but Hathaway is a very talented young actress and many expected her performance to drive the film, not her body.