In Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy, the runt who survives the odds as her community becomes overwhelmed by floods. The young actress could not have imagined she would get an Oscar nomination.
But despite a soulful performance, Wallis is too new to win the golden statuette.
Naomi Watts is in the running for her performance in the The Impossible. She plays a mother of three caught in Thailand’s 2004 Tsunami.
This is the second Oscar nomination for Watts. The first was for her role as a grieving wife and mother in 21 Grams.
So far, Watt’s performance in The Impossible has not gained enough momentum to put her in the lead.
At 86, Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest nominee ever for a Best Actress Oscar. She’s had a long and illustrious career in her native France.
She became known in 1959 for her role in Alain Resnais’ ground breaking film Hiroshima Mon Amour.
Critics have hailed Riva’s performance in Amour, about an elderly woman who is slowly dying. But Riva’s gut wrenching interpretation of Anne may not yield an Oscar.
Some say she is too old and the film too esoteric for Oscar voters.
And that leaves the frontrunners. Jessica Chastain is one.
Chastain is up for the Oscar for her role in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain’s career has taken off in the last few years.
In Terence Malik’s Tree of Life, she played a young wife at life’s mercy.
In Tate Taylor’s drama The Help, she’s an outcast in the 1960s white South who stands with an African American housekeeper abused by a former employer.
In Zero Dark Thirty, she plays Maya, a CIA operative who spends ten years on the search for Osama Bin Laden.
Chastain’s character is reclusive, obsessive and aloof, and, some say, lacking in depth. Her persona, they say, was never fleshed out and that could cost her the award.
That leaves Jennifer Lawrence. In Silver Linings Playbook, she is Tiffany, a woman with emotional issues who befriends a man suffering from bipolar disorder.
Lawrence has already won two major awards for the role.
Her career took off two years ago with a nomination for her performance in Winter’s Bone.
She played a teenager who struggles to keep her poverty-stricken family together.
Lawrence went on to play Katniss Everdeen in the The Hunger Games, a role that won her international recognition.
As Tiffany, Lawrence is witty and captivating. But Oscar voters will have to decide if a comedic role deserves one of the most coveted awards of the year.