A male star dominated selection of movies up for Best Picture means that it is in the individual awards that the women have to really shine. The result is that many of the films featuring the nominees do not have the high profile that has seen others on the mouths of moviegoers and critics alike. The winners will likely be those from that highly acclaimed and hugely popular group, but the Academy may have a surprise or two once those ballot forms are counted…
Actress in a leading role
And the nominees are…
Judi Dench – Mrs Henderson Presents
Already a winner for her supporting role in Shakespeare in Love in 1998, Dench has been nominated three other times – twice for leading roles and one other as support. What will prey on the minds of the judges is the fact this is a very British film about the owner of a vaudeville house before and during the Second World War. Without much of an American angle, Dench will have to make do with a honourable mention.
Felicity Huffman – Transamerica
Perhaps best known for appearances on television shows such as Desperate Housewives and Frasier, for Transamerica Huffman plays Bree, a pre-operative transsexual who embarks on a cross-country road trip with her troubled teenage son. Certainly gaining kudos for taking on the role of a man about to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, its tiny gross is likely to undermine her chances and place her out of the running.
Keira Knightly – Pride and Prejudice
Fans of the famous BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel were thrilled by Knightly’s performance as the assured and sharp Elizabeth Bennett who falls for Mr Darcy. A very British film, like Mrs Henderson Presents, the nomination marks Knightly’s ascent to Hollywood stardom since Bend it Like Beckham. It is only that Britishness that might stand in the way of Oscar fame this year. One for the future.
Charlize Theron – North Country
Another Oscar-nominated role for Charlize Theron as a ‘victim’ of persecution following her winning role in Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003). Here she plays Josey Aimes, a single mother who is subjected to humiliating sexual harassment after she takes a job at a coalmine. The nomination coming so soon after her first golden statuette, and with little else to show in between, Theron is also likely to be out of the reckoning. She can at least be thankful for a boost in her credibility after the disastrous Aeon Flux (Karyn Kusama, 2005).
Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line
A varied acting career has led Witherspoon to an outstanding performance in Walk the Line as country singer June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic. It is a shame that the film itself was not nominated for Best Picture, but with Joaquin Phoenix putting in an equally impressive turn as the legendary Cash one or the other is likely to be going home happy. My money is on Witherspoon to clinch it and put herself firmly on the A-list. Predicted winner.
Actress in a Supporting Role
And the nominees are…
Amy Adams – Junebug
Probably not the first name on the judges’ lips, it will be an uphill struggle for Adams to make it to the steps onto the stage. This culture clash movie sees Adams play small-town Ashley who is awe-struck by her glamorous sister-in-law. Described as a heart warming presence on-screen in what sometimes becomes a drab picture will certainly do her reputation good, as will the nomination. However, she is an outsider for this award.
Catherine Keener – Capote
Philip Seymour Hoffman has probably won all the plaudits this film can muster with his outstanding performance as Truman Capote. However, Keener also delivers the goods as Harper Lee who accompanies her childhood friend as he investigates the Kansas family murder. A second nomination for Keener, she has an excellent chance of winning given Capote’s presence in the top awards.
Frances McDormand – North Country
A fourth nomination for the ever-dependable and previous Oscar winner McDormand, she and Theron have put North Country on the map at this year’s awards. As Glory, Frances McDormand plays a coalmine employee who must battle both sexual harassment and a crippling illness – and the Academy likes to see minorities battling for their rights. Having already won in the leading actress field, expect the award to go elsewhere.
Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener
Many were surprised not to find the film up for Best Picture or Best Director which is why Weisz is in with an excellent chance to add to her trophy cabinet for this film. Weisz, only seen in flashback during the film as a British diplomat’s murdered wife, needed to produce a strong performance that gave the impression her character was never far away from the political controversy that her husband is left to discover. She did, and Weisz should probably get to work on that acceptance speech. Predicted winner.
Michelle Williams – Brokeback Mountain
Nominated in eight categories, Brokeback Mountain could easily walk off with all of them. Williams plays Alma, a cowboy’s young wife who learns that her husband’s heart belongs to another man. Like Keener, Williams puts in an excellent performance, but may suffer from being overshadowed by the performances of a male star – or in the case, two. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal have probably deflected too much of the limelight onto themselves. However, she may get the sympathy nod if Brokeback Mountain is overlooked by most judges for its other nominations.