Speaking of 12 Years, on the ladies' side of things I'm thinking Lupita Nyong'o will earn a nomination for her affecting turn as the horrifically abused Patsey. She's a recent Yale Drama School grad and is poised to burst onto the scene something big, so nominating her this year would be a good way for the Academy to re-up its star-maker cred.
Having just had the pleasure of watching Alexander Payne's lovely, aching Nebraska this week, I'd be thrilled to see the indefatigable June Squibb pick up a nomination. A lifelong stage actress who only began acting in movies at 55, Squibb, now 84, is the perfect feel-good nomination, sure, but she also delivers a fully alert, feisty, thoughtful, and wondrously naturalistic performance in my favorite Payne film since About Schmidt. She's doing a deceptive amount of careful, exacting work in the film, and it'd be a thrill to see her recognized for that.
You'll forgive me, I hope, for waiting this long to mention who is probably the other sure-thing next to Nyong'o. I like Oprah and all, but I didn't love what she did in the bland, overly simplified The Butler. But I'd be surprised if Ms. Winfrey didn't get on the list this year. The crazy thing is that she might actually win. The ladies of August: Osage County might pose some threat, but I think they'll cancel each other out. Julia Roberts was going to be campaigned as a lead, but then they thought better of that and switched her into Supporting. (The switch also resulted in the loss of what was potentially the year's most exciting match-up: Oprah vs. Meryl.) Margo Martindale could also be in contention, and then further in the distance are Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis, though I'd imagine they'd have a better shot if the play had not been trimmed down to fit film proportions. I haven't seen the film yet, but I've a feeling some of their characters' subtleties will be among the missing.
So it's an odd year! A lot of uncertainty, and lots of grasping. If I had to pick one completely out-of-left-field choice for each of these categories, I'd say Emory Cohen from The Place Beyond the Pines, who played a specific kind of Northeastern teenage boy with startling accuracy and insight, and Scarlett Johansson, who did equally accurate and insightful work as a particular kind of Jersey girl in Don Jon and, I'm told, makes quite the impression as the disembodied voice in Spike Jonze's Her. But that'd never happen. Would it?
Joe: The thing about ScarJo is that there's going to have to be a lot of love among the voters for her to get the first ever voice-only acting nomination. And I wonder if that kind of affection for her exists in Academy ranks. She's never been nominated before, even during that five-year span where she was knocking 'em out of the park on a consistent basis (Ghost World! Lost in Translation! Match Point!). Four Golden Globe nominations and no Oscar nods puts you in Cameron Diaz territory, and that's not a place you want to be on nomination morning.