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Oscar-Buzz Cheat Sheet: Amour's Shot at History

Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Amour Sony Pictures Classics

If you put Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain together, and tossed in Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhané Wallis, the whole lot of them wouldn't add up, age-wise, to one Emmanuelle Riva.

A look at the 85-year-old's Best Actress chances for the just-released Amour:

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On One Hand, Her Chances—They're Not-So Good: Riva didn't muster enough support among members of the Screen Actors Guild Awards' nominating committee to rate a nod. For an actor, trying to forge ahead in Oscar season without a SAG Award nod is like trying to forge ahead in Oscar season without a SAG Award nod—the situation is so dire, we can't even come up with an analogy. 

On the Other Hand, Her ChancesThey're Not So Bad: As fine a blueprint as the SAG Awards are for the Oscars, they're rarely perfect. If an actor's going to sneak in the back door this year, it could well be Riva, whose performance as a stroke victim has earned her Best Actress honors from the top critics' groups in New York and Los Angeles.

What the Oddsmakers Say: Pretty much what we just said. On the gaming boards, she's considered the third-strongest candidate for Best Actress after Lawrence and Chastain (and not counting Anne Hathaway and Sally Field, whom the oddsmakers haven't yet figured out are gunning for Supporting Actress).

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By the Way, Who Exactly Is Emmanuelle Riva? She's French. She's worked extensively and almost exclusively in French film and TV since the 1950s. Her last major Oscar vehicle, Hiroshima, mon amour, was released 51 years ago. And if she's nominated, she'll become the oldest Best Actress nominee ever—park that car, Driving Miss Daisy, whose late star, Jessica Tandy, still holds the honor. (She was 80 when she won the award in 1990.)

Why It's Not Advantageous to Be the Oldest Best Actress Nominee Ever: More than Best Actor, Best Actress is a young person's game. The 10th "oldest" Best Actress winner, Shirley MacLaine, wasn't even 50; the average winner is exactly as old, or young, as Zero Dark Thirty's Chastain is right now: 35.

Does Amour Have a Shot Anywhere Else? Yes. If the Best Picture category goes deep with 10 nominees, it'll be in play, per the oddsmakers. Also, it's the official submission of Austria for Foreign-Langauge Film. Earlier today, the Academy announced Amour had been shortlisted along with eight other films in that category.

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