Oscar Nominations Attempt a Heated Contest for Actor, but Best Actress Will Be Unpredictable

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Remember when the media was playing up the monumental idea of Daniel Day-Lewis competing with Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor at the Academy Awards? I was also one of those trumpeting the idea this last year, even though we media thought it was long over when Phoenix began spewing about wanting to become the next award-recoiling Marlon Brando. But it was inevitable the Oscars would nominate Phoenix anyway as a desperate grab to show there's still a slight possibility of Phoenix beating Day-Lewis for the actor honor.

We all know that won't happen now that "Lincoln" is still in everybody's thoughts and "The Master" is currently residing somewhere in the purgatory of theater and Blu-ray release. The real news the Oscars brought this year may go beyond Ben Affleck's directing snub and into the Best Actress category. Not many people other than myself thought Quvenzhane Wallis of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" had a real chance to be nominated here.

Yes, now the Oscars have gone and added the epic streak of having three potential best actresses who perhaps encompass one of the largest age spectrums in award history. And the good news for Oscar is that any one of them could potentially win. Of course, that might hinge on which age demographic in the academy managed to find a way through the tangled security of cyber voting.

The fact that Emmanuelle Riva of "Amour" managed a nomination is proof that the supposed older majority of the academy managed to lick their technophobia in e-nominating. This isn't to say that younger voters didn't feel the same way, especially with the plot of "The Notebook" still touching a nerve in those well below retirement age. Real history could be made, however, if Quvenzhane Wallis beats out the more experienced field to become the youngest actress in history to win in a competitive category.

And if you think that will turn into an epic battle of what constitutes real experience in acting, then you can see the Oscar noting an emerging new direction in actresses. I've noted before that Wallis's innate thespian strengths seems an adjunct to the evolution of female actresses who seem ready for the camera directly out of the womb. Call it mysterious thought transfer or what have you, the argument could be made that Wallis's performance in "Beasts" at least equals if not beats Riva's touchingly life-weary performance in "Amour."

Then we have to consider the possibility of Jennifer Lawrence beating Wallis for the actress prize. While that seemed more of an epic battle before, the add-on of Riva is much more pronounced in its showdown possibilities. The only comparison may be in the fact that Lawrence was also never technically trained as an actress and thrives on unexplained, innate ability.

Regardless, let's keep this in mind: The Oscars always find a way to find a middle ground between extremes. It's one reason why "Lincoln" likely will win only half of its 12 nominations, including Best Picture. Now you can add the same to this very epic best actress contest.

Not many have considered these compromises: Naomi Watts for "The Impossible" or Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty." Based on that, any one of the nominees could win. If Watts or Chastain win, then we'll know Oscar stuck with the status quo of an actress needing to be run through a ringer just to be considered for the big gold guy.

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