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Jessica Chastain & Daniel Day-Lewis + Jennifer Lawrence: Movie Awards Season Front-Runners

Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty: Relative cinema newcomer is top Best Actress choiceJessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty: With ten wins – and three nominations – to date, relative film newcomer Jessica Chastain is the top Best Actress pick this awards season for her portrayal of a determined CIA analyst in Kathryn Bigelow's controversial political thriller Zero Dark Thirty. Initially a television and stage performer (notably as Salome opposite Al Pacino's King Herod in a 2006 rendition of Oscar Wilde's play), Chastain made her big-screen debut in the title role in Dan Ireland's little-seen 2008 indie Jolene. Her film career remained uneventful in the ensuing couple of years (Stolen in 2009; The Westerner in 2010), but 2011 turned out to be a watershed: she had eight movies released in the United States, several of which – chiefly Tate Taylor's The Help, Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life – earned her multiple Best Supporting Actress wins and nominations throughout awards season. With Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain is back – as a lead actress and shoo-in Oscar contender.

Awards season front-runners Jennifer Lawrence & Daniel Day-Lewis

Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kathryn Bigelow's political/action thriller Zero Dark Thirty, and Michael Haneke's old age drama Amour are the front-runners in the 2012–2013 movie awards season.

Respectively, they're the top Best Actress(es), Best Actor, Best Film, and Best Foreign Language Film picks of North American (mostly U.S.-based) movie critics and other groups – among them, the National Board of Review, the Independent Feature Project's Gotham Awards, and the International Press Academy's Satellite Awards.

In addition, they've also been shortlisted for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild's SAG Awards, and Film Independent's Spirit Awards.

Needless to say, come Oscar 2013 time the critics' choices will not necessarily match those of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Yet it certainly doesn't hurt to have your “For Your Consideration” ad filled with “Best of the Year” and/or “Best [Actress/Actor/etc.] Winner” reminders, particularly those from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle.

Bear in mind that the also influential National Society of Film Critics will not be all that influential this year, as they'll be naming their 2012 winners on Jan. 5 – two days after the polls close for the 2013 Oscar nominations. (Don't be too surprised if a year from now the NSFC decides to announce their 2013 winners in late December instead of early January 2014.)

Little variety among 2012–2013 awards season choices

As has been happening year after year, out of about 250–300 or so eligible films, only about half a dozen titles have been singled out in the vast majority of categories.

Of course, it could be that each year only six or seven really good movies are released, and that only six or seven actors and actresses deliver outstanding performances in lead roles, and so on. But it could also be that, with rare exceptions, North American awards-season voters enjoy being part of a herd and that groupthink is as widespread a condition among movie critics, guild members, “film scholars,” and the like as it is among the world's population as a whole.

2012–2013 awards season top picks

Below and in the next couple of posts you'll find this awards season's top choices. Next to the name of each film title are the critics groups' cities and/or states, in addition to, when applicable, the names of the organizations (or “awards” – e.g., “Golden Globes”) that selected them.

With the exception of the populist Broadcast Film Critics Association, which has its own p.r.-boosting, star-studded televised Critics' Choice Awards ceremony, critics' awards nominees and runners-up have been left out.

When relevant to the North American film awards season, we've also listed winners at the Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, and Venice film festivals, besides the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA), the Dublin Film Critics, and the European Film Awards (EFA).

Note: The New York Film Critics Circle is listed as “New York,” while the New York Film Critics Online is listed as “New York Online.”

Best Actress favorites: Jennifer Lawrence vs. Jessica Chastain

Initially, Jennifer Lawrence was this movie awards season's top Best Actress choice for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. Just recently, however, Zero Dark Thirty leading woman Jessica Chastain surpassed Lawrence to become this awards season's top Best Actress – for now.

Perhaps because of all the secrecy surrounding Kathryn Bigelow's depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Chastain was rarely mentioned as a top contender until a few weeks ago. Jennifer Lawrence, for her part, has been a top possibility for quite some time, even though she has what amounts to a supporting role in Russell's film – which revolves around Bradley Cooper's unbalanced character.

The third wheel in the 2012–2013 Best Actress race is 85-year-old Amour co-star Emmanuelle Riva. In addition to her Best Actress European Film Award, Riva was the top choice of four (including a tie) U.S.-based critics groups. Absurdly, but not unexpectedly, she has been bypassed by both the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes. But as proof that there's hope for humankind (and for awards seasons), Riva can be found among the six contenders for the Best Actress Critics' Choice Award.

Also worth noting, Beasts of the Southern Wild nine-year-old star Quvenzhané Wallis has been all but ignored in this year's Best Actress race (note: her film was ineligible for the SAG Awards). On the other hand, Wallis has been cited in several Best Newcomer categories.

See below the list of this awards season's Best Actress favorites*.

Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook: Best Actress runner-up to Jessica Chastain despite extra nodJennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. To date this awards season, on Jessica Chastain's Best Actress heels is Silver Linings Playbook leading woman Jennifer Lawrence with nine wins and four nominations. Why four vs. Chastain's three nominations? A Weinstein Company release, the David O. Russell-directed Silver Linings Playbook was eligible for the indie-oriented Spirit Awards despite its more-than-modest budget. A Columbia/Universal co-production, Zero Dark Thirty was ineligible.

List of Best Actress favorites

  • Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, with 10 wins: Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Florida, Indiana, National Board of Review, Oklahoma, Phoenix, St. Louis, Utah (tied with Jennifer Lawrence), Washington. Plus 3 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, with 9 wins: Austin, Detroit, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles (tied with Emmanuelle Riva), Nevada (tied with Helen Hunt), Satellite Awards, Southeastern, Utah (tied with Jessica Chastain). Plus 4 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Spirit Awards.
  • Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, with 6 wins: Boston, Dublin, European Film Awards, Los Angeles (tied with Jennifer Lawrence), New York Online, San Francisco. Plus 1 nomination: Critics' Choice.
  • Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea, with 2 wins: New York, Toronto. Plus 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Helen Hunt for The Sessions, with 1 win: Nevada (tied with Jennifer Lawrence). In addition to 2 wins and 4 nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category.
  • Michelle Williams for Take This Waltz, with 1 win: San Diego.
  • Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone, with 3 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Naomi Watts for The Impossible, with 3 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, with 2 nominations: Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, with 2 nominations: Critics' Choice, Spirit Awards.
  • Emily Blunt for Salmon Fishing in Yemen, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Linda Cardellini for Return, with 1 nomination: Spirit Awards.
  • Emayatzy Corinealdi for Middle of Nowhere, with 1 nomination: Spirit Awards. She was also the Gotham Awards' Breakthrough Performer
  • Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Maggie Smith for Quartet, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Meryl Streep for Hope Springs, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead for Smashed, with 1 nomination: Spirit Awards.

Best Actress omissions

The list of Best Actress omissions is long, but it could have been much longer had there been more good roles (or just roles, period) for women in major (or even low-budget) American movies.

Here are some of the bypassed – mostly “name” – actresses who were featured, for better or for worse, in some of the year's most notable movies, whether hits, flops, or little-seen critically acclaimed efforts:

And let's not forget Jennifer Lawrence in Gary Ross' worldwide blockbuster The Hunger Games – a performance that earned quite a bit of praise back in March but that now seems to belong to another movie-world reality.

Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln: London-born Best Actor awards season favorite a success as all-American typesDaniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. Whereas Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence have been facing each other off in this awards season's Best Actress race – with no clear winner in sight – Daniel Day-Lewis is the absolute Best Actor favorite for his portrayal of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's domestic box office hit Lincoln, also featuring Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones. So far this century, the London-born Day-Lewis' most acclaimed performances have been those in which he plays an all-American type: besides Lincoln, there have been the rabidly xenophobic Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002), which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination; and the rabidly greedy oilman Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007), which earned him his second Best Actor Oscar. (The first was for Jim Sheridan's 1989 drama My Left Foot, in which Day-Lewis plays an Irishman, writer and painter Christy Brown.)

Best Actor favorite Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays iconic U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's well-received and quite popular (in North America) historical drama Lincoln, is the clear Best Actor front-runner this awards season.

It just remains to be seen whether or not Day-Lewis will become the first performer to win three Best Actor Academy Awards. His two previous Oscar victories were for Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot (1989) and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007).

Day-Lewis' chief competitors so far are Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook and an actor starring in another Paul Thomas Anderson movie, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a troubled World War II veteran in The Master.

To date, the only other Best Actor winners in North America this awards season are Denis Lavant for Leos Carax's widely acclaimed French effort Holy Motors and John Hawkes as a physically disabled virgin eager for his first sexual experience in Ben Lewin's The Sessions.

By the way, Joaquin Phoenix and fellow The Master player Philip Seymour Hoffman received a joint Best Actor Award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. Elsewhere this awards season, Hoffman has been listed in the Best Supporting Actor category.

See below the list of this awards season's Best Actor favorites*.

List of Best Actor favorites

  • Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, with 16 wins: Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Florida, Indiana (tied with Bradley Cooper), Kansas City, Las Vegas, New York, New York Online, Oklahoma, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Diego, Southeastern, Washington. Plus 3 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, with 5 wins: Austin, Dublin, San Francisco, Utah, Venice (along with Philip Seymour Hoffman). Plus 2 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes.
  • Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, with 3 wins: Indiana (tied with Daniel Day-Lewis), National Board of Review, Satellite Awards. Plus 4 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, Spirit Awards, SAG Awards.
  • John Hawkes for The Sessions, with 1 win: Nevada. Plus 4 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Spirit Awards.
  • Denis Lavant for Holy Motors, with 1 win: Toronto.
  • Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables, with 3 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Denzel Washington for Flight, with 3 nominations: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, SAG Awards.
  • Jack Black for Bernie, with 2 nominations: Golden Globes, Spirit Awards.
  • Richard Gere for Arbitrage, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Thure Lindhardt for Keep the Lights On, with 1 nomination: Spirit Awards.
  • Matthew McConaughey for Killer Joe, with 1 nomination: Spirit Awards.
  • Ewan McGregor for Salmon Fishing in Yemen, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson, with 1 nomination: Golden Globes.
  • Wendell Pierce for Four, with 1 nomination: Spirit Awards.

Jean-Louis Trintignant & other Best Actor absentees

In North America, the most glaring Best Actor omission of all is that of Amour leading man Jean-Louis Trintignant (Z, The Conformist, Three Colors: Red). At least Trintignant has already taken home the Best Actor European Film Award, and in a couple of months he'll likely be taking home the French Academy's Best Actor Prix César as well.

Below are other notable actors missing from this awards season's Best Actor shortlists:

* The Golden Globes list a total of ten Best Actor and Best Actress nominees in two categories, Drama and Comedy/Musical. The Critics' Choice Awards have mostly six nominees per category, including Best Actor and Best Actress. (Tellingly, the Critics' Choice Awards' “more esoteric” Best Foreign Language Film category has only four nominees.)

See also:


Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook image: The Weinstein Company.

Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln image: Touchstone Pictures / Walt Disney Studios.

Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty image: Columbia Pictures / Universal Pictures.

Jessica Chastain & Daniel Day-Lewis + Jennifer Lawrence: Movie Awards Season Front-Runners © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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2 Comments to Jessica Chastain & Daniel Day-Lewis + Jennifer Lawrence: Movie Awards Season Front-Runners

  1. didi

    Sorry, it's Eric Packer! Can't stand names spelled wrong.

  2. didi

    Thank you for mentioning Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis. He won't be nominated for any award,. He's too young and as a women's idol he has to earn some credibility just like Pitt and Depp and Di Caprio had to do before him. But nobody can deny that he nailed the difficult part of Eric Padker to perfection and a lot of male moviegoers shaked their head in disbelief that this guy can 'really act' LOL
    I'm pleasantly surprised too to read that you also mentioned Matthias Schoenaerts, the upcoming Belgian actor. It bothered me a bit that Marion Cotillard got all the praise in Rust and Bone. Already in Cannes people were talking about an oscar nomination, while IMHO Matthias' performance was as good as hers' to say the least. I know his previous movies, he can play every part he wants and what many might not know: his native language is dutch, but he speaks french and english fluently which broadens his horizons a lot.