1. Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine.” Woody Allen’s latest film has gotten great reviews, is pulling in strong returns at the box office and is possibly poised to eclipse “Midnight in Paris” as his highest-grossing film in the U.S. ever. While “Paris” got four Oscar nominations (including a win for Best Original Screenplay), it didn’t score any for its performers in the acting categories, which “Jasmine” appears to have in the bag. Cate Blanchett, as a Blanche DuBois-esque socialite caught in the downfall of her Bernie Madoff-like husband, in particular, has been earning some of the best reviews of her much-heralded career, and she appears to be a lock for a Best Actress nomination. Also of note, though, is British actress Sally Hawkins, who is just as memorable as Blanchett’s flighty sister. After being criminally robbed of a nomination for her superb performance in 2008’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” (no, I haven’t gotten over that, and I NEVER WILL), she has a strong shot at a Supporting Actress nod.
2. Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer in “Fruitvale Station.” This year’s Grand Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival could follow in the footstep’s of the festival’s previous winner, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which nabbed four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Actress and Director. The acclaimed real-life drama, detailing the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, has done well in its limited box office run, but it’ll be interesting to see if it can keep its buzz afloat until the winter, when the Oscar race really starts to heat up, or get lost in the deluge of higher-profile films. So, while its chances of nabbing Picture and Director noms like “Beasts” did is still up in the air, it shouldn’t have any trouble scoring recognition for its two stars — lead Michael B. Jordan, who’s made a name for himself with strong supporting turns on TV in “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights,” and past winner Octavia Spencer, whose affecting turn as Grant’s mother should be a lock for a second Supporting Actress nomination.
3. Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” This recently released biopic has been a surprise hit at the box office and is being well-received by critics (at least, more so than director Daniels’ previous film, “The Paperboy”). Much of the acclaim, though, has been directed toward the performances of Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, who play husband and wife in the film. Past winner Whitaker should be able to ride the drama’s strong critical and commercial notices all the way to the Oscars, as should the Mighty O, who, before becoming the media mogul she is today, actually received an Academy Award nomination for her debut in “The Color Purple.”
5. Greta Gerwig in “Frances Ha.” The biggest long shot of the bunch, this very low-budget dramedy was a darling with critics earlier this summer and has a devoted fan following, but those factors don’t always lead to Oscar glory. Still, star and co-writer Greta Gerwig’s charismatic performance as an aimless young New Yorker could be a dark-horse underdog, especially if the films by Oscar favorites like Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson don’t pan out. At the least, don’t count out a Golden Globe nomination.
Photos courtesy of The Associated Press.