Is Cate Blanchett This Year's First Legitimate Contender for Best Actress?

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Blue Jasmine is out in select theaters today -- and so, too, is our first potential glimpse at this year's Oscar race for Best Actress.

The film stars Cate Blanchett as a wealthy New York housewife whose financial rug is pulled out from under her after her husband's (Alec Baldwin) Bernie Madoff-esque schemes are exposed. This leads her to crash at her sister's (Sally Hawkins) place in San Francisco, where she very quickly begins to have a nervous breakdown, as seen in the terrifying clip below:

For her performance in the film, Blanchett has already racked up some of the best reviews of the year, if not her career. Variety called her "mesmerizing," while trade rival The Hollywood Reporter described her as "neurotically golden." These are the types of rave reviews that are typically reserved for end-of-year Oscar players, meaning Blanchett already has a leg-up in what will likely become a very competitive race.

Of course, even the most passive Oscar pundit will tell you that reviews can only get you so far; if they dictated everything, I'd have written this very same article about Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig a couple months back. In which case, Blanchett is going to have a do a bit of leg work to keep her buzz going until the nominations are announced in January. The question is: Can she do it?

The short and long answer is probably yes. For one thing, Blanchett already has a well-established history with the Academy. She was first nominated in 1998 for Elizabeth, and went on to win six years later for The Aviator. Three subsequent nominations followed -- for Notes on a Scandal, in 2006, and the double-whammy of Elizabeth: The Golden Age and I'm Not There in 2007 -- meaning they like her consistently enough to always keep her in the conversation.

But if they like Blanchett, then they really, really like her director, Woody Allen, a man who has received a staggering 23 nominations over the course of his long and successful Hollywood career. (He most recently won a fourth statue for Midnight in Paris in 2011.) Granted, they were mostly for his comedies (this one is a drama of sorts); but when voters get the chance to vote for Woody and/or one of his players, odds are they will try to find a way to do it. (Remember that Original Screenplay nomination for Deconstructing Harry in 1997?)

Of course, any sort of Oscar talk before September is kind of moot, especially when you consider the amount of competition Blanchett may face in the coming months -- mainly, from Meryl Streep, who stars as a pill-popping mother in Tracy Letts' adaptation of August: Osage County, and Sandra Bullock's one-woman show in the terrifying-looking Gravity. There's also Judi Dench in Philomena to contend with, as well as Nicole Kidman in Grace of Monaco, Naomi Watts in Diana and, well, you get the idea.

But for now, at least, things are looking pretty good.

 

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