Why she’ll win: Adams reveals a take-no-prisoners scrappiness that her delicate beauty tends to conceal in her role as boxer Micky Ward’s tough and tender girlfriend Charlene. Her performance, literally, packs a punch.
Maybe not: Her co-star, Melissa Leo, won the Golden Globe and SAG Award. Also, “Fighter” fans may split the vote, sending the Oscar elsewhere.
Critic’s quote: “It’s great to see her play a part like this without strain or fuss. She was miscast relentlessly in her 20s, but with parts like this in her sweet spot, she can step up and play easy, naturalistic scenes.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
HELENA BONHAM CARTER
“The King’s Speech”
Why she’ll win: Bonham Carter could ride a “King’s Speech” sweep to victory for her role as a nurturing Queen Elizabeth supporting her husband in his battle against a debilitating stammer. With the ensemble with at the SAG Awards, the film is quickly gaining traction.
Maybe not: Of all the nominees, hers is the most reactive and least proactive. She’s a supporting actress playing a supportive character, and therefore doesn’t get many showy scenes. She’s even been a smidgen dismissive of the part in interviews.
Critic’s quote: “She is never imperious, but she is distinctly aristocratic. She subtly disappears into the quiet role, but retains her dry wit as the loving wife whose belief in her husband is unwavering. She’s the power behind the throne of Colin Firth’s magnificent, much-lauded performance.” — Claudia Puig, USA Today
Why she’ll win: A lengthy, honorable career could pay off with Leo’s reliably excellent turn as boxer Micky Ward’s protective and exploitive mother, Alice, a woman at least as tough as her boxer sons. Wins at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards have given her plenty of kudos momentum.
Maybe not: Voters in “The Fighter’s” corner could split the fight card between Leo and Adams. Some felt the performance flirted with caricature.
Critic’s quote: “The hair, the dangling cigarette, the iron hand with which she rules her children’s lives — she does a fantastic job of getting the point across that this is a woman not to be messed with.” — Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
Why she’ll win: As Mattie Ross, it’s Steinfeld, not Jeff Bridges, who carries this film. Just try to imagine the movie working if her performance was just a little off. Steinfeld splendidly balanced tricky period dialogue and her character’s resolve to avenge her father’s murder.
Maybe not: As she has more screen time than Jeff Bridges, some voters may feel she doesn’t belong in this category and should’ve competed in the lead actress category.
Critic’s quote: “The star of this show is Hailee Steinfeld, and that’s appropriate. This is her story, set in motion by her, narrated by her. This is Steinfeld’s first considerable role. She nails it.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Why she’ll win: Weaver outpaced a fast pack this past year as Scariest Mother Character. Her Janine’s tremulous arches of her eyebrows barely masked a venomous ruthlessness when it came to protecting her family of thieves and thugs.
Maybe not: Hers is the only nomination for a little-seen film. Will enough Academy voters do their due diligence and pull out the screener?
Critic’s quote: “Weaver, as the wily (grand-)mother protecting her brood, offers a deliciously sinister turn.” — Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
Couples not always treated equally
Lead Actor | Lead Actress | Supporting Actor | Supporting Actress