At the moment, aside from Oprah’s inevitable Supporting Actress bid for her work in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the only sure thing in the 2013 Oscar race is a Best Actress nod for Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett. Some pundits have curbed their enthusiasm for Blanchett’s recognition, saying it’s too soon to make such definitive calls, but to hell with all that. Praise doesn’t get much more unanimous than what’s been showered on the Aussie diva, a bona fide Oscar favorite whose turn as an unraveling princess brings out the best of her supreme talents (naturally, she’s also the current frontrunner to win). The rare Woody Allen film that’s sold as an ensemble piece but is in fact a star vehicle, Blue Jasmine essentially acts as its own Best Actress campaign, with Blanchett appearing in virtually every scene and growing more deliciously unhinged as each minute passes. The performance is monstrous in a number of ways, from the actress’s bare portrayal of Jasmine’s myriad shortcomings to the emotional demands that basically run the gamut of human feeling. This would all be enough to land Blanchett a slot, but here’s what will clinch it: the post-recession relevance Blanchett’s peers will find “important,” and the ways in which they’ll respond to Jasmine’s “I lost everything” nightmare. I mean, we all know this movie scared the Goop out of Gwyneth Paltrow.
And Blue Jasmine’s corresponding box-office and critical successes probably mean that its nomination haul won’t end with Blanchett. There’s certainly a selection of Woody Allen purists who’ve loathed most of his recent work, and see his latest as yet more proof that his magic touch has long been lost. The consensus, however, is overwhelmingly positive, just as the the film’s returns are uncommonly large for a specialty release. When it first kicked off its limited run on July 26, Blue Jasmine netted more than $600,000 in three days on six screens, which may not sound like much, but is pretty astronomical, and a record for Woody (to be geekily exact, it’s the director’s best-ever opening per-screen average). What’s more, the film’s arthouse success incited a recent wide release, positioning the film to surpass the record total of Midnight in Paris.
This is all great news when it comes to Blue Jasmine’s trophy potential, as those in any voting body like rewarding art that does good business (just ask the Grammys about Adele), and Oscar is especially kind to certain indies that climb the hill toward mainstream success. So while it’s not entirely likely, it’s perfectly plausible that the movie could land in your Best Picture lineup, especially since it’s poised to arrive on DVD in time for massive pre-nomination exposure. Meanwhile, in the area of Director, this doesn’t feel like a Woody year, particularly since Blanchett, despite her many public efforts to pin the triumph on the filmmaker, has siphoned away most of the credit for the movie’s grand response. Plus, Woody is up against competitors who seem miles ahead of him, like Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), the Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis), David O. Russell (American Hustle), and Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), to name a few. Besides, odds are the Academy will feel perfectly satisfied acknowledging their favorite writer for his timely Original Screenplay, granting him his 16th nomination in the category.
Surest bets: Best Actress, Cate Blanchett; Best Original Screenplay.
Possibilities: Best Picture; Best Director, Woody Allen.
Shouldn’t be Overlooked: None.