Can anyone beat Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress at Oscars?

In the fall, Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) seemed to be the clear frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar, though the intervening months have seen significant surges from both Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”). Can either of them overtake her?

Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook“)
Lawrence leads the Oscar race with 13/8 odds; she is supported by 20 out of 26 of our experts, eight out of nine editors, and 62% of users.

Playing a sexually compulsive widow who falls for her bipolar neighbor, she has already won prizes from the  the LA film critics, Golden Globes, SAG. Though she lost Best Actress at Critics’ Choice to rival Chastain, she did win a separate award for Best Actress in a Comedy. She was also nominated at BAFTA and received several awards and nominations from regional critics’ organizations.

This is the second Oscar nomination for Lawrence, who received her first Best Actress bid in 2010 for “Winter’s Bone.” At 21, she is the youngest person to have earned multiple lead acting nominations.

-ADDPREDICTION:85:6:Click to predict Best Actress:ADDPREDICTION-

Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour“)
Riva is in second place with 3/1 odds. Six experts, one editor, and 23% of users predict her to win. Turning 86 on Oscar night, she would be Oscar’s oldest acting winner.

In “Amour,” she plays a retired piano teacher slowly dying after suffering a stroke. Though she was not nominated at the Globes or SAG, she received a bid from the Critics’ Choice, tied Lawrence at the LA critics awards and won BAFTA, the National Society of Film Critics, and the European Film Awards.

This is Riva’s first Oscar nomination.

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Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty“)
Chastain ranks third according to our predictors, with 9/2 odds. 13% of users expect her to win.

This season she has already won honors from the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice, as well as the National Board of Review and regional critics’ prizes including Chicago, Florida, and online journalists. She was also nominated at the BAFTA and SAG Awards.

This is her second Oscar nomination. She was nominated last year for Best Supporting Actress for “The Help.”

Naomi Watts (“The Impossible“)
Watts places fourth with 15/2 odds. None of our experts or editors and only 1% of users predict her to win.

Playing Maria, a real-life survivor of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, Watts has not won a major award this season, though she has been nominated by the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Critics’ Choice Awards.

This is her second Oscar nominations. She previously earned a Best Actress bid for “21 Grams” (2003).

Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild“)
Wallis ranks last with 10/1 odds. 1% of users predict her to win.

Earlier this season she won Best Young Actor/Actress at the Critics’ Choice Awards, where she was also nominated for Best Actress. She also received awards from Chicago, Phoenix, and Washington DC critics for youth or breakthrough performance. However, she was not nominated by the Golden Globes, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was ineligible at the SAG Awards.

This is her first Oscar nomination, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is her acting debut. She is the youngest lead-acting nominee in history.

20 thoughts on “Can anyone beat Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress at Oscars?

  1. Everyone’s idea of who had the “best” performance is subjective. The critics groups were split all season, so any claim that one nominee was clearly ahead of the others is nonsense. I thought Lawrence showed the greatest acting skill of all the candidates. (Incidentally she won two Critics Choice awards, not one).
    But an Oscar also has to bring in other factors: Impact. Relevance. Timeliness. Acceptance by the movie going audience. By those measures Lawrence wins hands down. An Oscar is not just a critic’s award. Who you believe had the “best” performance is only one of the factors involved. In 2010 I’m not sure if Portman had the best performance. But she had the best performance in the biggest hit and was the most relevant of the nominees, so it was the right choice. I thought Lawrence in Winter’s Bone had a better pure performance that year, but I also thought it would be improper to award a film that small and and an actress that unknown. Sorry, but Amour has made $3 million dollars and no one outside of cinephiles know who Riva is. (The last meaningful film she was in was incredibly Hiroshoma Amor in 1961). Awarding an Oscar against that backdrop would be a slap in the face to the audience that the Academy claims it is trying to reach, and another symptom of why the Oscars is losing its audience. (Almost as bad as giving it to Wallis, but never put it past the out of touch Academy).
    So the choice should be between Lawrence and Chastain weighing all the relevant factors. In the end I would say that Lawrence (like Portman) is the right choice.
    But again she is just 22. That creates a lot of resistance.

  2. Pippin, it seems your argument for Lawrence/Chastain comes down to popularity. While I have long said that distribution of a film should reach at least 2/3 of the country to be considered for an Oscar, with a separate category for smaller films so that they can at least get SOME attention, the fact that Amour only made $3 million at the box office should be irrelevant in the absence of such a qualifier.

  3. Pippin, I agree with you. If you get performance + impact + relevance, Lawrence wins hands down. The only thing that can hurt her is her age, which I have no problem forgetting about it since the talent shown by this lady is outstanding. I can’t see Chastain winning this year, she was fantastic in past roles and an amazing actress but Zero Dark Thirty isn’t an actors movie and this is not an “Oscar performance”. Riva is also fantastic but honestly, I wouldn’t watch Amour in other circumstances. I respect her and her career and that’s it.

  4. I am on the fence with this, if Riva were a Brit I would cite their bias in their ceremonies but she is not. Riva could win this award, namely because BAFTA is one of the most solid precursor awards with regard to Oscar. Yet J Law has Harvey on her side, and a film more people have probably seen. Chastain is the third place spoiler and if she would have won BAFTA I would have said its over, but this an all out neck and neck fight between these three….I am sticking with J Law for now, but gut tells me to be ballsy and go for Riva

  5. Is anyone else surprised that Chastain wasn’t nominated for The Debt last year? I would’ve thought if she would ever win for any project, it would have been for that movie.

    I don’t know what to think of this race anymore except that it’s too close to call. It’s been so unpredictable, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up announcing “And the Oscar goes to…Meryl Streep! Even though she wasn’t nominated!”

  6. I agree with everything Pippin wrote. And I am pulling for J Law. First because I think her performance shows the most range. Second, because I just plain love her!! She is incredibly endearing. Third, simply because she is dripping with talent! However, I am in no way secure in her victory.
    Its as you wrote, its not just about performance. I am hoping she has enough of the criteria the academy looks for.

  7. Everyone mention the SAG stat, how about a BAFTA stat, if lead actress nominated in both BAFTA and Oscar and then win BAFTA, she will win Oscar. This stat is not broken since 1998. It may not as strong as SAG stat, but it give you a big picture what can outcome be.

  8. Like Kevin, I feel Jennifer Lawrence will win, but I am pulling for Emmanuelle Riva. I know the Oscars are, today more than ever, about popularity; however, it is good when the ‘best’ truly does win.

  9. I’m so sick of « Emmanuelle Riva is the best »
    I’m sorry but there are people (many, actually) who find Jennifer, Jessica or Naomi better!
    So, stop. That’s soooo annoying!

  10. The biggest factor against Jennifer Lawrence is root-ability. She lacks it due to her getting the starring role in a major franchise which some voters may feel is reward enough. I think a lot of voters would be willing to root for her if she had maintained her indie-cred. A lot of people think her starring role in The Hunger Games helps her, but I think it may hurt her, especially if Riva pulls out the upset win in the end.

  11. I have seen all 5 performances, and the best, by far, was Emmanuelle Riva. J Law’s performance was good, but it was also the easiest and probably could have been done by many actresses. Naomi and Jessica were both awesome–but their films are garnering negative and no attention from the media–we know how the politics of the academy work. Riva was the best–her role was the hardest and definitely the most honest of all the nominated works.

  12. Now looking back, no.
    Lawrence out acted her peers. Riva started getting hype, but it seemed like an anti-Lawrence move more than anything. When it was Lawrence vs. Chastain no one mentioned her. But once Chastain faded it was as is people were flailing for another hopeful. The key issue was always that Lawrence is 22 and some people can’t accept that someone could be that talented at that young an age.

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