Richard: Welcome back to Oscar Chat, Joe! As we received some news yesterday about the acting races, let's focus on those today. It's a crowded field this year, with respectable mega-star turns and a couple of big breakouts. But hasn't at least one category felt inevitable since this summer? Meaning, can anyone beat Cate Blanchett's bruising, beautiful, utterly spellbinding turn in Blue Jasmine? Her swiftly deteriorating socialite is not just the most finely realized character of the year, it may be Blanchett's new Great Performance. (On screen, at least. People are still whispering in awe about her Blanche DuBois, done with the Sydney Rep four years ago. Fitting, then, that Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen's riff on Tennessee Williams's seminal woman-unraveling play.) Praise for Blanchett's work in the otherwise pretty good, not great film has been near-universal, and, frankly, I just don't see anyone else being able to top it — in esteem or awards recognition. And I think that's just right. Best Actress is the award that Blanchett deserves, none of this Best Supporting silliness for a twenty-minute Katharine Hepburn impression. (Albeit a very good one.)
Though, there is the problem of that summertime release date. Blue Jasmine came out all the way back in July, six months before Oscar nominations. Of course, early releases have fared well at the Oscars before — Crash, the movie that single-handedly solved racism, won the Best Picture Oscar despite coming out in March of that year — but I think a re-release, even a small one, might be needed to truly ensure Blanchett's win. It needs to be fresh in voters' minds. If people forget about Jasmine, the door could be left open to Sandra Bullock, whom everyone loves and who does technically proficient work in Gravity. Hers is mostly a physical performance, but when you figure that, more than most actors, she really had to make all this stuff up from whole cloth, what she conjures up in the film is pretty impressive. There is also some recent rumbling for Judi Dench in Philomena and of course, coming out of Toronto, for Meryl Streep in the flashy role of August: Osage County's hectoring, pill-popping matriarch from hell. On the indie fringes, there's newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos, who apparently endured quite a lot during filming for French coming-of-age epic Blue Is the Warmest Color. These women are all strong competition, yes, but doesn't Blanchett still feel like the winner here?