Our Oscar Experts — journalists from leading outlets such as Variety, USA Today and Yahoo — have been busy updating their predictions for Best Actress in the wake of three film festivals: Venice, Telluride and Toronto. Above, a comparison of what we were thinking four weeks ago versus today.(Click on the image to explore these trends in-depth by selecting various dates in the two calendars at the bottom of that page) And below, a breakdown of our votes for the three leading contenders. (See how the experts fill out their Oscar ballots in this and eight other top races HERE)
Two-time Oscar champ Cate Blanchett remains in first place with odds of 7/2 based on the support of six Experts for her performance in Todd Haynes' "Carol." (See the odds for all the top Oscar races HERE.)
Haynes also adapted Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel “The Price of Salt” about a married woman (Blanchett) who falls in love with a shop clerk (Rooney Mara). Mara won Best Actress at Cannes, which does not distinguish between lead and featured performance, but will be campaigned in supporting for the Oscars.
Blanchett won her first Academy Award in the supporting category for playing all-time Oscar champ Katharine Hepburn opposite Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in "The Aviator" (2004). She won Best Actress two years ago for "Blue Jasmine." If she triumphs for a third time in 11 years, she'll be one behind Hepburn and tied with Ingrid Bergman, Walter Brennan, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
Aside from Brennan — hugely popular with the screen extras who could vote for the Oscars back when he won Supporting Actor thrice between 1936 and 1940 — the others took much longer to rack up that third trophy: Nicholson – 22 years; Day-Lewis – 23 years; Bergman – 30 years; and Streep – 32 years.
Brie Larson has jumped into a tie for second place with odds of 9/2. Five Experts are touting her raw portrayal of a kidnap victim who bears a child by her captor in Lenny Abrahamson's "Room." The film, adapted by Emma Donoghue from her acclaimed 2010 novel of the same name, just won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto film festival. That prize has an outstanding track record as an excellent predictor of Oscar nominees. Two years ago Larson earned BFCA and Indie Spirit bids for her performance in "Short Term 12"; she lost both those races to eventual Oscar champ Blanchett.
Larson, who is about to turn 26, would be one of the youngest Best Actress winners in recent years. Three of the last four — Streep ("The Iron Lady," 2011), Blanchett and Julianne Moore ("Still Alice," 2014) — have been over forty. However, the fourth — Jennifer Lawrence — was just 22 when she prevailed for "Silver Linings Playbook" in 2012.
She has reunited with that film's writer/director, David O. Russell, for a third time with the biopic "Joy." Lawrence — who also reaped a supporting nomination for their second film together "American Hustle" (2013) – portrays Joy Mangano, the Long Island single mother of three who invented the Miracle Mop. Playing a real-life person proved to be a winner for 10 of the last 20 Best Actress champs. While Lawrence only has the votes of four Experts, she too has odds of 9/2 because of the way the rest of us rank her relative to Larson.
While it can take quite a while to win a third Oscar, the second often follows quickly upon the first. Among the two-time Best Actress champs, the fastest to pull off this double act was back-to-back champ Luise Rainer (1936, 1937) followed by four women who did it in three years like Lawrence could: Bette Davis (1935, 1938), Olivia de Havilland (1946, 1949); Glenda Jackson (1970; 1973); and Jodie Foster (1988, 1991).
The other double winners were: Sally Field (five years: 1979, 1984); Hilary Swank (five years: 1999, 2004); Elizabeth Taylor (six years: 1960; 1966); Jane Fonda (seven years: 1971, 1978); Vivien Leigh (12 years: 1939, 1951); Ingrid Bergman (12 years: 1944, 1956); and Streep (29 years: 1982, 2011).
And then there is Katharine Hepburn. She won her first Best Actress prize in 1933 for "Morning Glory," then lost eight times before winning in 1967 ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"), 1968 ("The Lion in Winter") and 1981 ("On Golden Pond").
Rounding out the top five, albeit with no Expert predicting them to win, are two past Oscar nominees: 2009 Best Actress nominee Carey Mulligan ("An Education") as a women's rights activist in the historical drama "Suffragette" and 2007 Supporting Actress nominee Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement") for the charming period piece "Brooklyn."
Cate Blanchett, "Carol" (6 Experts)
Michael Hogan (Vanity Fair)
Jack Mathews (Gold Derby)
Keith Simanton (IMDB)
Sasha Stone (AwardsDaily)
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)
Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com)
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