Instead of dipping into the already repetitive waters of late October Oscar talk, this column will take the next two weeks as an opportunity to discuss a few names that aren't getting as much talk as they may deserve (though here's updated weekly predictions to supplement that).
Every year, a few actors from small films manage to make their way into the
Oscar race. Like Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour" last year (neither of whom were sure bets for nominations going into it), Demián Bichir
in "A Better Life" (a huge surprise two years ago), Jennifer
Lawrence and John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone," Woody Harrelson in "The
Messenger," Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"... The list goes on and on.
So in keeping with Indiewire's indie spirit, it seemed appropriate to make arguments for twenty performances that deserve to be the next Wallis or Bichir or Lawrence or Jenkins. The ladies come first this week, the gentleman next.
Commentators should keep in mind that the list does not include
work that looks like a safe bet for a nomination (Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine" and Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years a Slave," certainly, as well as June Squibb in "Nebraska" and Octavia Spencer in "Fruitvale Station" -- both of whom might not quite be locks yet, but most people are reasonably predicting both of them), and that it only includes films
currently scheduled for release during the 2013 eligibility period (thus
excluding recent Toronto pick ups like "Tracks" and "Can a Song Save a Life?," for
example). Keeping that all in mind, here are 10 underdog actresses (whether
lead or supporting) for your consideration.
Bérénice Bejo, The Past
Two years after scoring her first Oscar nomination for not saying a word in "The Artist," French-Argentine actress Berenice Bejo makes clear she can act up a storm when dialogue is involved too in Asghar Farhadi's French language "The Past." The heavily lauded performance (it won her the best actress prize at Cannes) finds Bejo playing a woman who asks her estranged Iranian husband to come to Paris -- where she is living with another man -- to finalize their divorce. What unravels is a complicated portrait of human relationships, and one that allows Bejo to deliver one of the rawest, most affecting performances of the year. Though even with the backing of Sony Pictures Classics (which got a French language performance from Emmanuelle Riva in last year), it's going to be tough for Bejo to break into a category that seems to already have 4 or 5 locked in English language performances.
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Another Sony Pictures Classics-backed French actress -- though in an English language role here -- Julie Delpy really should be an assured nominee for her work in the third film in Richard Linklater's saga of lovers Céline (Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) "Before Midnight." But she's not. So hopefully voters really consider the rather unprecedented character Delpy has developed over these three films (both as an actress and as a writer), culminating in a remarkable, emotionally devastating performance as a woman struggling within a long term relationship (particularly in the film's third act). While it seems much more likely she'll share a screenplay nomination with Hawke and Linklater (which they did for the previous "Before Sunset"), Delpy -- never nominated before as an actress -- is more than deserving of the double recognition.