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oscar race 2011

Oscar Death Match: Is This the Best Best Actress Year Ever?

Typically in these newsless final weeks of August, bloggers look ahead to Oscar season and bemoan the shortage of plausible Best Actress candidates. Not this year, though! Might 2010 be the greatest-ever year for the category? In the past week, Oscarologists Scott Feinberg and Peter Knegt both surveyed the field and found a glut of strong contenders. Already we've seen Oscar-quality performances from Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Tilda Swinton (I Am Love), and Julianne Moore and Annette Bening (in The Kids Are All Right) — and there are plenty more where those came from.

Other likely candidates include: Lesley Manville (Another Year), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), and Naomi Watts (Fair Game) — all performances that have been seen and raved about at festivals.

(Compare this to last year, when these were our most likely Best Actress contenders heading into September.)

And, hey, if any of the above should disappoint, there's maybe Diane Lane (Secretariat), Jennifer Connelly (What's Wrong With Virginia), Bryce Dallas Howard (Hereafter), and Diane Keaton (Morning Glory).

On the other hand, neither Knegt nor Feinberg were able to identify many surefire candidates for Best Supporting Actress, so if things get too competitive in the lead race, an actress can increase her odds by committing category fraud and slumming it in Supporting (which wasn't really an option in 2010, since Mo'Nique's victory was a foregone conclusion). Either way, though, we officially have a death match! This year's Oscars pretty much have to be more exciting than last year's, right?

On the other hand, neither Knegt nor Feinberg were able to identify many surefire candidates for Best Supporting Actress, so if things get too competitive in the lead race, an actress can increase her odds by committing category fraud and slumming it in Supporting (which wasn't really an option in 2010, since Mo'Nique's victory was a foregone conclusion). Either way, though, we officially have a death match! This year's Oscars pretty much have to be more exciting than last year's, right?

FINAL PRE-TELLURIDE/TORONTO PROJECTIONS FOR MAJOR CATEGORIES [Scott Feinberg]
For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm [IndieWire]

Photo: Suzanne Tenner, © 2010 Focus Features