by Rob Boylan
So here's the deal: we're in the homestretch of this thing now and I decided to skip Best Actor. There is no suspense to the category. We all know Daniel Day Lewis will win. We all know Daniel Day Lewis should win. And he will. There is no point in talking about it because it's a done deal already. It's not a knock against any of the other actors, it's just that he really is that much better than everyone else. Poor Joaquin Phoenix though. Every time he gets nominated it's an "any other year" kind of situation.
Best Actress is somewhat different. Like Best Supporting Actor, which is the first time every nominee had been a previous winner, Best Actress is setting a record for featuring both the oldest nominee, Amour's Emmanuelle Riva at 85, and the youngest, Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhané Wallis at 9 ever in the category.
Naomi Watts is really the only actress I would have a problem with if she won. I've loved her in so many films in the past, but The Impossible is not one of those films.
Jennifer Lawrence is vibrant, hitting a perfect blend of deep and funny -- and crazy and sane -- in Silver Linings Playbook. She practically leaps off of the screen every moment the camera is on her. It's a really strong performance, one that I personally don't feel like we've seen since Winter's Bone. Where has this actress been all of these years? Is this the actress we'll see from now on, or just when she's in the right hands?
Quvenzhané Wallis is much the same, just about jumping off of the screen in an extraordinary performance, not just for a young actor but for an actor of any age. But I never know what to make of very young actors. Will she blossom like Dakota Fanning, or will she find the party scene like Lindsay Lohan? It doesn't have anything to do with the moment or what she did in Beasts, it's just always a thought I have in these moments.
Emmanuelle Riva doesn't jump off of the screen, but recedes into it with a magnetic naturality. It's a heartbreaking film and a heartbreaking performance and there isn't a moment of hesitancy visible. To dive so deeply into this role must have been one of the most difficult things Riva has ever done, but there doesn't appear to be a line where you can see her end and the character begin as is evident in some immersive performances.
Jessica Chastain sort of splits the difference as the CIA agent who kept the hunt for Bin Laden alive even when it looked like they were chasing a ghost. If the award was cumulative, she might take just for being in so many films since her emergence two years ago. It's not a cumulative award though, and though she is the throughline and spine of the film, Zero Dark Thirty succeeds as much on the intensity of the finale, which she isn't a part of, as it does on the build up to it.
Jessica Chastain -- "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence -- "Silver Linings Playbook"
Emmanuelle Riva -- "Amour"
Quvenzhané Wallis -- "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts -- "The Impossible"
Of all of the categories we've covered this week, Best Actress is the one I'm most torn over. For crushing me so thoroughly, though, it goes to Emmanuelle Riva for Amour.