With just over a week to go until Oscar nominations are announced, most critics' picks for which actors were going to get nods were all but solidified — that is, until the 2014 BAFTA nominations came along. On Wednesday, the British awards show, generally considered a key predictor of the Oscars, revealed their nominees for the best in film, some of whose inclusions are bound to majorly shake the Oscar race up. At first glance, the BAFTA list doesn't seem too surprising; Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Jennifer Lawrence and more predictable picks all make the cut.
Many of the nominees, though, like Christian Bale for Best Actor or Oprah for Best Supporting Actress, while certainly not underdogs, are not the people most voters expected. Still, the biggest surprise might be in the Best Actress category, where American Hustle's Amy Adams replaced August: Osage County's Meryl Streep, effectively pushing Oscar darling Streep farther and farther out of one of the Academy's biggest races.
In a year as crowded with great film performances as 2013, it's not surprising that most of the major categories are jam-packed with worthy contenders. In the Lead Actor race, there are inevitably going to be at least three or four deserving men (see: Leo) snubbed for a nomination, simply because of the small number of spots. And for the women, the competition may be even more tough; only a few weeks ago, just a handful of actresses seemed likely to get nominations, but now, thanks to the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and more, up to ten women could potentially be honored.
Before awards season began, these were the five women expected by most to receive Oscar nominations: Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, and Meryl Streep. And then American Hustle barreled into theaters, and Amy Adams was added to the mix. Factor in surprise Golden Globe nods for Before Midnight's Julie Delpy, Labor Day’s Kate Winslet, and Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig, along with less influential but still notable Indie Spirit nominations for Short Term 12’s Brie Larson and The Spectacular Now’s Shailene Woodley, and suddenly, the Oscar race got a lot more crowded.
Still, most critics held their bets on the original five, due in large part to all of those women’s decades-long careers and past Academy love. They didn’t cast aside Amy Adams completely — most kept her in the mix for Supporting Actress — but compared to the five heavyweights, the actress best known for smaller roles didn’t seem to stand much of a chance.
But then the BAFTAs changed everything. By nominating Adams instead of a predicted contender like Streep, the American Hustle star now has a viable chance at earning a Best Actress Oscar nomination. If she does, she will inevitably knock someone major out of the race, whether it be Streep, Thompson, Dench, Blanchett (Bullock is America’s Sweetheart. She’ll never get cut) — and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
While there’s no doubt that all five potential nominees that Adams might replace are deserving, it’s about time that someone (relatively) new got in the mix. Between Blanchett, Dench, Bullock, Streep, and Thompson, they’ve had twenty Best Actress nominations and four wins. True, a good portion of those were for Streep, but there’s no question that the five women have had their share of Lead Actress honors. Adams, though, may be a frequent nominee for her supporting roles, but she’s yet to land a nomination for Best Actress. Sure, it’d be nice to see Streep or one of the others land yet another nomination, but it’d be even better to see Adams finally get the honor that’s eluded her for her entire career.
There’s no guarantee that Adams will get the nomination, of course; the BAFTAs may be a good predictor of the Oscars, but only the Academy voters know what names will be announced on Jan 16. It’d be fantastic to see Adams get the nod, but in a category as wonderfully crowded as Best Actress, even if she doesn’t, whichever women do will certainly be worth rooting for.
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