WATCH Dueling Oscar auditions: Jennifer Lawrence vs. Lupita Nyongo

Up until Thursday’s Critics’ Choice Awards, Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle“) had an advantage against Lupita Nyongo (“12 Years a Slave“) in the Best Supporting Actress Oscar race: People already knew her.

Lawrence has been delivering charming interviews and acceptance speeches for a couple of years now, while newcomer Nyongo is mostly known as her long-suffering “12 Years” character. That changed when Nyongo bested Lawrence at Critics’ Choice and got her first chance to take the stage in front of a national audience.

She received a standing ovation from many in the crowd when her name was announced, including a proudly beaming Oprah Winfrey, despite the fact that Winfrey was her rival in the category and just that morning had been snubbed by the Oscars. Nyongo then delivered a heartfelt but articulate speech that may have rewritten the Oscar narrative in her favor.

I don’t usually put much stock into the idea of acceptance speeches as Oscar auditions; unless you jump on stage wearing a swastika or punch Miss Golden Globe in the mouth, chances are if academy voters like you they’ll still like you no matter what you do or say. And if they like someone else, it’s hard to change their minds.

But an Oscar narrative is often important, because Hollywood likes to stage the happy ending to whatever movie formula you best fit into, like the Overdue Veteran (Jeff Bridges, Christopher Plummer), the Breakout Star (Adrien Brody, Jean Dujardin), or the Scrappy Underdog (“Argo“).

Last year’s Best Actress victory for Lawrence fit the narrative of the Crowning of a New Hollywood Princess, which also benefited other 20-something winners like Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love”), Angelina Jolie (“Girl, Interrupted”), and Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”).

That’s where Nyongo’s speech might have helped her. Taking the stage at Critics’ Choice, she showed a bit of that New Hollywood Princess, telling an emotional story about how she was encouraged to give Hollywood a try, and look at her now – they like her, they really like her.

But her standing ovation wasn’t just because she was young and gracious. It was because she was winning for a Courageous Role in a Noble Film. That’s another powerful narrative that often results in Oscars (Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry”; Brody in “The Pianist”).

So now that we’ve gotten to know Nyongo as a winner and have seen an Oscar narrative take shape, can she beat Lawrence at the Oscars? Lawrence also passed her Oscar audition at this year’s Golden Globes, but the credits already rolled on her narrative when she won Oscar last year.

Below, watch Nyongo and Lawrence’s acceptance speeches. And then vote for the one you think is most likely to repeat at the Oscars or weigh in with your prediction as to who else could win Best Supporting Actress. 

14 thoughts on “WATCH Dueling Oscar auditions: Jennifer Lawrence vs. Lupita Nyongo

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lawrence was never going to win this year. She’s had her time in the spotlight, this year is Lupita’s year (unless by some wild chance the Academy decides to reward Julia Roberts with her second Oscar). Tom’s “they like you, they really like you” argument only matters when you’re someone like Tom Hanks or Jason Robards or Meryl Streep, where you have earned the right to be rewarded twice due to being a talented and respected industry veteran who has been around many years. That is not the case with Lawrence, no matter how much they love her. I would say it’ll be quite a few years before she wins another Oscar for any performance.

  2. Both actresses are wonderful BUT…. Jennifer Lawrence is still the one to beat and the one who has proven herself not only as a critics favorite but one who can open a film, bring in LOTS of cash. I will be happy with whomever wins (again, both are lovely and talented, having said that Lawrence still has the edge) just please don’t pit these women against one another…neither of them deserves it.

  3. And of course you start with a Jennifer Lawrence category. This is exactly why a few of us Lawrence fans really want her to lose. Maybe after she loses, she won’t be the focus of so much attention.

  4. @M, hate to be the one breaking it to you but pitting contenders against each other is kind of the point of a site like Goldderby. It’s a sad fact of life but competition is what these awards are about. As for your comment about Jennifer Lawrence opening a film, which I assume you’re referring to Hunger Games, it’s not true. HG is the type of mega popular franchise where no matter who starred in it, it was bound to be a massive hit, just like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. You can’t assume Lawrence can open a film just based on that when it was bound to be a success whether she’s in it or not.

    @Kell, to be fair, it’s not Lawrence’s fault the media gives her so much attention. She’s the current Hollywood princess right now, they love her, so they keep writing about her to get page hits. I fully agree with you that she shouldn’t win (also because her performance in AH is very undeserving) but don’t expect her to get much less attention either way unless another superstar in the making explodes and finally detracts attention away from her.

  5. I adore Lawrence but she was all wrong in American Hustle, and if she wins a back to back Oscar for THAT holy mess, I will cringe ten times over.

    Lupita is now the alternative choice for voters, since I don’t see June Squibb, Julia Roberts or Sally Hawkins being competitive March 2nd. Maybe SAG will shake things up (right now Lawrence is the slight favorite), but with over a month to decide, voters will be able to select more openly and thoughtfully. Also, the supporting races are where the Oscars produce more upsets.

  6. I must say I’m not sure why everyone is underestimating Roberts so much. I’m not a fan of hers and even I can see she has a fighting chance here. She’s in a showy role, she’s an industry vet, they’ll want to give AOC something and I don’t see it being Meryl again, and how can anyone forget she’s one of Harvey’s girls this year? Now that The Butler has completely imploded, Harvey will be pushing everything AOC, including Julia so no one should count her out. Frankly, I think she has a better chance than Lawrence (but not as good a chance as Lupita).

  7. Jennifer Lawrence’s speech was so fake – all that nonsense about watching Flirting with Disaster and other Russell’s movies and then checking on google who directed them. please. she won an Oscar for playing in his movie last year. why is she saying this now. and it was probably not true. she saw those movies after she got a role in Silver Linings Playbook. Lupita on the other hand was very charming and honest.

  8. @Shelly, why does the Academy want to give something to AOC? It’s not a very well received film. Anyways, back to Lupita vs. Lawrence audition piece. It’s clear that Lupita won hands down. God! I want another occasion to see her this radiant and majestic on stage again. SAG! Please vote for her!

  9. @branimir, Lawrence has said many times in her interviews before that she’s always been a fan of David O. Russell’s work and I Heart Huckabees is one of her favorite movies, and she said this years before she met Russell and did SLP. She started out as an indie movie actress so I don’t know why you think she was lying or being fake when she said that in her speech. It was her way of saying thanks to Russell and that she admires his work.

    @A. Duong, I’m just going off the theory some of the Oscars experts have that they want to spread the wealth or give every movie something. It’s not to say it’ll happen.

  10. I didn’t want her to win last year, I don’t want her to win this year. Nyongo’s speech was perfect absolutely perfect. Lawrence’s, not so much. Still, I would love for June Squibb to come out of nowhere.

  11. If not Lawrence, then who? Is American Hustle going to get 4 acting nominations and not win a single one? It’s possible, sure, but unlikely. Next best guess would be Amy Adams.

  12. No matter how much I love Lawrence, Nyong’o’s speech was incredible. She has that first-time awe in her eyes that is so wonderful.

  13. Both performances were pretty spectacular. But Nyong’o’s heartfelt sincerity and gratitude during her acceptance speech makes me want to hear more from her. After Lawrence’s speech, I kind of wish she would just go away for a while …

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