The Hunger Games star earned her first Oscar nomination two years ago for Winter’s Bone and has since become one of the most sought-after actresses in the industry. Her colorful, charismatic widow in Silver Linings Playbook won over a lot of voters, and despite her youth she has shown remarkable versatility. Her off-the-wall personality also tended to charm more than it offended. She won the SAG Award and the Golden Globe for comedy/musical, but still — this is a close one, and not a lock by any means.
Runner-Up: As calculating and cool as Jessica Chastain was in Zero Dark Thirty, her CIA agent kept the world at arm’s distance, which may be a solid portrayal of that type of character but didn’t give viewers much of a personal connection. Amour‘s Emmanuelle Riva, who turns 86 on Oscar night, caused a lot of Oscar-watchers to recalculate with her in the lead after she won the BAFTA award last week, but her agonizing drama about an elderly couple reaching the end of their lives is one of those films that some voters will secretly admit they were reluctant to watch.
Surprise: Naomi Watts, The Impossible. Another film that suffered due to voter procrastination. Quite a few dragged their feet when it came to screening this tsunami disaster-drama, which may have prevented it from getting more nominations. Those who have watched it tend to become passionate supporters. She hasn’t won much this season, but if there’s a shock in the acting category this year it might be from Watts.
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