Sasha Stone‘s theory about actors or actresses winning two acting Oscars is that the second performance has to be stronger or more affecting than the first. A better written role, more forcefully delivered — so knock-down and reach-in that it can’t be denied. Jodie Foster‘s performance as a working-class rape victim in The Accused was riveting stuff, but Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs was in another league altogether — a sympathetic, vulnerable woman in a tough job, dealing with a highly traumatic case — and so she won again. Sally Field‘s two Oscars (Norma Rae, Places in the Heart) came from playing women grappling under difficult economic conditions, but her performance in Places arguably had a bit more bone-weary heartache and solemnity.
You could argue the same thing about Jane Fonda‘s military-wife role in Coming Home vs. her guarded prostitute performance in Klute. Was Tom Hanks‘ simply-phrased Forrest Gump guy more award-worthy than his AIDS-afflicted attorney in Philadelphia? Perhaps not but Gump was more zeitgeisty and groundswelly — a lot of impressionable people fell in love with that film. No one believes that Katharine Hepburn‘s Oscar-winning performance for her tough grandma in On Golden Pond was better than her blazing Lion in Winter performance — I think it was mostly an end-of-career gesture, a gold-watch Oscar.
Can Cate Blanchett or Jennifer Lawrence win their second Best Actress Oscar (which would be Blanchett’s third as she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator) with their respective performances in Carol and Joy? If either performance prevails it would have to be generally received as punchier or more galvanzing than Blanchett’s Oscar-winning meltdown in Blue Jasmine or Lawrence’s in Silver Linings Playbook.
In this respect it seems (emphasis on that word) that Lawrence might have the edge. Maybe. Blanchett’s characters in Blue Jasmine and Carol are both 30ish married women with a hidden problem — complicity in financial impropriety in the Woody Allen film, closeted lesbian longing in the Todd Haynes‘ film. Having seen both I’m not persuaded that the Carol performance necessarily knocks the Blue Jasmine performance on its backside. I’d say they’re more evenly matched.
I just have a little feeling that the 2015 Best Actress Oscar is Lawrence’s to lose.
The other two prominent Best Actress contenders — Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan and Suffragette‘s Carey Mulligan — would of course be first-time winners if either prevails, but Ronan’s performance, while rich and arresting, is on the restrained side, and you know how those Guild and Academy voters tend to respond to showy acting displays.
And while Mulligan’s heat will naturally be based upon the quality of her emoting as Maude, the struggling working-class waif who’s the central character in Sarah Garvon’s period drama, her campaigning will be limited by her pregnancy. As far as I can guess she conceived sometime last March (the first announcement story broke in late April) and would therefore deliver around the end of the year. Her rep says she’s done a slew of long-lead interviews and that she’ll promote the film’s 10.23 stateside debut, but I’m also hearing she won’t be doing any film festivals.