Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Can anybody but Dench or Blanchett win the Oscar?

Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are already ahead of the pack

Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 22:25


We’re saying “no”. Mind you, the stupid ceremony doesn’t take place for five months. So, almost anything could happen. There’s time for a meteorite to strike, chaos to set in, new world orders to rise and Rupert the cat to become supreme world leader. If that doesn’t occur, however, then either Judi Dench (for Stephen Frears’s Philomena) or Cate Blanchett (for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine) is, let me assure you, going to win the best actress prize.

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Over at Gold Derby our friends in the Oscarology Department seem to have decided that Blanchett has it in the bag. Nobody else need turn up. Their drift is easy enough to catch. Woody Allen has had a great record in propelling his actresses towards Oscars. He writes strong parts and allows his stars to chew those parts to ribbons. I found Blanchett’s turn in Jasmine just a little, well, over-ripe. But you can’t deny that she catches the eye and hooks the hear. Every note in her impressive vocal range is hammered. There’s a wildness to the performance that fairly rattles the bolts in your brain. You could say many things about this incarnation of Blanchett, but you couldn’t say it was easy to ignore.

Few of you will have seen Philomena yet. Let us just say that it is among the most mercilessly affecting tear-jerkers you are ever likely to encounter. Touching and unexpectedly hilarious, the picture tells the true story of journalist Martin Sixsmith’s attempts to help an older Irish lady locate the son who was put up for adoption by nuns in Tipperary some 50 years previously. Presented as yet another of Steve Coogan’s patented self-asorbed monsters, Sixsmith sets out on a journey to the US with the stubborn, amiable, infuriating, brave former nurse. Dench gets to do it all. She gets to chortle. She gets to cry. She gets to be silly. And ultimately she gets to be wiser than her over-educated companion. It hardly needs to be said that the Bafta is hers. But I also think she has a 50/50 shot at the Oscar.

There are similarities between the two actors’ positions. Both have best supporting statuettes for slightly perfunctory portrayals of real people: Blanchett for playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator; Dench for essaying Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love. The Academy will feel that Dame Judi is in greater need of full-strength recognition. She is a full 35 years older than the Australian. That performance in Shakespeare in Love was among the shortest ever to win an acting prize. (Since you ask, that honour is held by Beatrice Straight for her five-minute turn in Network). But the Oscars do enjoy giving best actress to the young glamour puss. So maybe the maniacs at Gold Derby are right after all.

At any rate, I wouldn’t bother putting your money anywhere else. Sandra Bullock for Gravity? The film is a bit too action-propelled. Meryl Streep in August: Osage County? ┬áBarely a lead performance we hear. No, it will be Judi or Cate. Now, we’ll shut up about this for a month or so.

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