Oscar 2005: Best Actress

A Year of New Faces and First-Timers

This is part of a series of articles about the Oscars' top categories: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, and Adapted Screenplay.

About half of the nominees in the 2005 Best Actress category could be fresh faces and newcomers, who have never been nominated before. But would it be Reese Witherspoon, Felicity Huffman, Keira Knightley

According to the Academy's By-Laws, unlike directors, actors cannot be nominated for two roles in the same category, though they could be nominated for two different roles in the lead and supporting leagues.

As usual, the female category is not as strong as the male one. Hence, the list is divided into two groups: Frontrunners and contenders

Frontrunners

Reese Witherspoon

Never nominated before.

Witherspoon is a shoo-in for her role as June Carter, the legendary singer and Johnny Cash's second wife in the musical biopicture, Walk the Line.” A box-office star as a result of the “Legally Blonde” movies, Witherspoon shines in the film, and she also sings, which is a major plus. We may see Academy history repeats itself: In 1980, Sissy Spacek won the Oscar for playing country singer Loretta Lynn in “A Coal Miner's Daughter.”

Felicity Hoffman

Never nominated before.

In the wake of the popularity of her TV series, Desperate Housewives,” and her Emmy Award this year, Huffman stands a good chance to be nominated for her pre-operative transsexual in “Transamerica.” Crossing over smoothly from one medium to another, Huffman is the best thing in this melodrama about the reunion of father-son.

Charlize Theron

Winner of the 2002 Best Actress for “Monster.”

Theron could get her second nomination for the fact-inspired sexual harassment drama, “North Country.” The movie didn't ignite the box-office, but it's the kind of deglamorized characterization, replete of big emotional scenes (with abuse, suffering, victimization, and crying), that tends to impress Academy voters. And it's a similar role to Sally Field's in “Norma Rae,” who won the 1979 Oscar, and Meryl Streep in “Silkwood,” who was nominated in 1983, a year after winning for “Sophie's Choice.”

Judi Dench

Winner of the 1998 Supporting Actress for “Shakespeare in Love,” and nominee for lead in the 1997 historical drama, “Mrs. Brown.”

Harvey Weinstein's fave actress plays an eccentric role, the entrepreneurial widow “Mrs. Laura Henderson,” in Stephen Frears' fact-inspired “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” which relates the tumultuous story of London's Windmill Theater.

Keira Knightley

Never nominated before.

Knightely, who gave two very different performances this season, in “Domino” and in the literary adaptation “Pride & Prejudice,” could become one of the youngest nominees in Oscar's history. Shell be nominated for the serio comedy, “Pride & Prejudice,” a vivid rendition of Jane Austen's beloved novel, which is after all in the tradition of the Merchant-Ivory period pieces (“A Room With a View,” “Howards End”)

Contenders(in alphabetical order)

Joan Allen, “The Upside of Anger”
Claire Danes, “Shopgirl”
QOrianka Kilcher, “The New World”
Gwyneth Paltrow, “Proof”
Ziyi Zhang, “Memoirs of a Geisha”