Nicola Goode / Universal Pictures
By Paul Sheehan, Special to The Envelope
As every Oscarologist knows, a woman portraying a queen of England can virtually count on reigning in the best-actress race. It doesn't even matter if their films are lambasted by critics, as Cate Blanchett recently discovered with "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." By that logic Emily Blunt stands a good chance of being nominated next year as "The Young Victoria."
Royal roles do so well with Oscar voters because they tend to hail performances based on actual people. Indeed, six of the last eight best-actress winners and four of the best actors won for playing real-life roles. With that in mind, the seeming randomness of the Oscars can become almost predictable.
Four years ago, Jamie Foxx won best actor for portraying a real person (Ray Charles) with a physical handicap (blindness) in "Ray." He returns this year as a real-life violinist battling schizophrenia ("The Soloist"). By playing a true-to-life person, Foxx became one of the rare exceptions to the Slap the Stud Syndrome, which punishes young actors for their good looks. The opposite is true for women, of course. Along with playing an actual person, the Babe Factor may be one of the reasons Marion Cotillard just pulled off an upset for best actress over 66-year-old Julie Christie.
In the gallery ahead, we apply these Oscar criteria to highlight outstanding performances due in theaters over the coming year.