Eye on the Oscars: The Actor/Actress

CATE BLANCHETT, “ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE”
Why she’ll win: No discussion of Blanchett’s royal reprise seems to come without disappointment in the overall quality of the film. Nevertheless, there’s consensus that Blanchett’s performance transcended, and that could redouble in her favor. Her work still provokes wonder from auds everywhere — she’s a true heavyweight in this division.
Maybe not: Three potential strikes: the ambivalence toward the pic, the fact that Blanchett has received even more notice for her supporting actress-nominated perf in “I’m Not There,” and the absence of a single honor from any of the critics or guilds this season for the role.
Critical quote: “Who else would be so tall, regal, assured and convincing that these surroundings would not diminish her? We believe she is a queen,” says Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times.

JULIE CHRISTIE, “AWAY FROM HER”
Why she’ll win: Christie staged a master class in acting with her beyond-nuanced portrayal of the final chapters of a woman’s battle with Alzheimer’s, humanizing the disease to perhaps an unprecedented degree. The former “Darling” star is exactly that: beloved by Hollywood and long overdue for a second Oscar. She has also won a plurality of critics honors for her performance.
Maybe not: Ageism? As much as the Academy might skew older, voters might be drawn to honor a fresher face. Christie would be the oldest lead actress Oscar winner since Jessica Tandy for “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989). Also, “Away From Her” has kept a fairly low profile.
Critical quote: “She can seem lost one moment but then, as an intention pierces through her cloud of unhappiness, crisp and incisive. … Christie, turning a medical condition into a dramatic coup, makes it impossible for us to feel merely sorry for Fiona,” says the New Yorker’s David Denby.

MARION COTILLARD, “LA VIE EN ROSE”
Why she’ll win: It almost seems as if Cotillard has been touted for this award since the days when Edith Piaf was singing. Her performance was immediately recognized as something magnificent, at once wondrous and gritty, truly seeming to bring the light and dark of Piaf to life.
Maybe not: Though it didn’t quite prompt the general negativity of Blanchett’s “Elizabeth,” Cotillard’s film did not find widespread appeal. With the story not engaging the masses, the performance could become a casualty.
Critical quote: “She fills the diminutive, firebrand Piaf with life force at every age: as a lusty teen urchin, warbling on the streets of Paris for her supper; as the imp-diva with drawn-on eyebrows, looking like a depressed mime as she belts out her sublime cabaret ballads in a voice as strong and clear as a bell; and as Piaf the arthritic, morphine-addicted wreck (she died at 47), a Gallic Judy Garland who extinguished everything inside but the flame of her will,” says Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly.

LAURA LINNEY, “THE SAVAGES”
Why she’ll win: One is tempted to simply state, “It’s Laura Linney, stupid.” Of the three veterans in this category, Linney is the only one without an Oscar (despite two previous noms). Her long-lauded bona fides as an actress were completely reinforced by her multilayered take on Wendy Savage. She’s in her prime; it may well be time.
Maybe not: Despite her rep, Linney sneaked into the Oscar finals — any buzz over her performance had dissipated by the time the noms came out. So there might not be that urgency to hand her the Oscar this time around.
Critical quote: “Of course the acting is tremendous, and you’d expect nothing less. Linney’s Wendy is fidgety, self-absorbed and neurotic, given to outrageous lies but also oddly competent at moments of crisis,” says Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com.

ELLEN PAGE, “JUNO”
Why she’ll win: In the two months since the release of “Juno,” Page has approached America’s Sweetheart status. Her ability to convey both the edge and the poignancy of the title character has become one of the biggest stories of the season, and she has been the most accessible of the five contenders when it comes to promotion. A victory for Page would be stunning — but not at all out of character for the film’s flight path.
Maybe not: Does she have to pay more dues? Page, who turns 21 three days before the Oscars, would be the youngest lead actress winner ever, edging out Marlee Matlin.
Critical quote: “Page arrives in this movie like a slacker Audrey Hepburn on the half-shell. The few of us who saw Page in 2005’s suspense freakout ‘Hard Candy’ knew she was capable of great things. ‘Juno’ doesn’t just confirm that promise, it’s this close to a great thing itself,” says Ty Burr of the Boston Globe.

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