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Oscars 2013: Will we have a 9-year-old Best Actress?

Last updated on: February 13, 2013 12:00 IST

Oscars 2013: Will we have a 9-year-old Best Actress?


Raja Sen in Mumbai

We're less than a fortnight away from the 85th Academy Awards, and today, we take a look at the five eclectic performers battling it out in the Best Actress category.

It's a fascinating fivesome, this.

There's a randy dancer, a feisty mother, and a withering wife. And then there's one who beats terrorists and one who beats crabs. Here's a look at this year's nominees, and what I think of them.

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow's thrilling Zero Dark Thirty does its bit for women's empowerment, creating a female protagonist so darned tough she might as well be, well, a man.

Chastain is terrific in the film, thrusting the action forward with both intensity and believability.

The last couple of years has seen Chastain in critically-lauded films like The Tree Of Life and The Help, and while Bigelow's film rests squarely on her shoulders, it is also a less demanding film in the way that it gives the actress only one note to master.

She's bloody good, but she's been better before.

Image: Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty


Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

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Remarkably talented 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence became, with this nomination, the youngest actress in history with two Oscar nods.

The first came for 2010's Winter's Bone, where she was just phenomenal.

In David O Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, her character certainly has it all on paper: she plays a widowed former-nyphomaniac who has a thing for dancing. And football.

Lawrence is flawless in the film -- changing gears and moods with a spontaneous unpredictability that makes her a pleasure to watch -- but despite the vat of quirks her character is poured into, this remains a performance that should lead her to far better roles, not one impressive enough to win her lasting acclaim.

Image: Jennifer Lawrence with Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook


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Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

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At 85, Madame Riva is the oldest person to ever be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.

An actress best known for Hiroshima Mon Amour in 1960 (and to most of us Kieslowski devotees as the mother in Three Colours: Blue), Riva provides Michael Haneke's new film with a fragile, fluttering heart. She's exquisite in a film that would be nothing without her.

Riva plays Anne Laurent, a retired music teacher who finds her life gradually shattered by a stroke, and eventual paralysis.

It is a mesmerising performance, and one that deserves every accolade it gets.

And because Haneke's hugely acclaimed film isn't likely to win the Best Picture or Best Director award, Riva may well be the one bringing it gold.

Image: Emmanuelle Riva in Amour

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Quvenzhan Wallis, Beasts Of The Southern Wild

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On a diametrically different end from Riva stands the plucky Quvenzhane Wallis, all of nine years old and, according to Uncle Oscar's record books, the youngest person ever to be nominated as Best Actress.

An electrifying livewire who brings Benh Zeitlin's movie alive, Wallis creates a young heroine worth heralding as vociferously as possible. Her Hushpuppy is immortally good.

As I stated when the nominations were announced, I'm rooting for Quvenzhane.

It's a long shot (the Academy will probably think the nomination is enough of a pat on the head) but this year, I don't think any of her rivals could create a character this complete, this magical. 

It's a character worth believing in.

Image: Quvenzhan Wallis in Beats Of The Southern Wild

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Naomi Watts, The Impossible

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It's difficult to look at JA Bayona's film about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami without caveats: it is a finely assembled film with great performances and one that remains riveting, but it is also a film that takes a gigantic human tragedy and reduces it to disaster-movie size.

But perhaps devastation this grand can only be comprehended when boiled down to relatable, familiar size.

Either way, Watts is fantastic, as are her co-stars Ewan McGregor and young Tom Holland.

Her Maria is believable, strong-willed and, while naturally vulnerable, able to construct a powerful facade to keep her son's spirits alive. It is a top performance, mired by the conventionality of the script.

Watts is super, but actors shine brighter in finer, riskier films.

Image: Naomi Watts in The Impossible

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