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Why Jennifer Lawrence Just Might Beat Jessica Chastain for Oscar Gold

Jennifer Lawrence Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Isn't Jennifer Lawrence too young to win a Best Actress Oscar? I feel like she just got here.
—Andrew, Utah, via Twitter

Saying "she just got here" is not an effective way to throw shade in Hollywood, son. Precious star Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for an Oscar for her first race out of the gate. Anna Paquin had been alive for all of 11 years when she walked away with a Best Supporting Actress statue. In other words, the Oscar people love actors who feel like their own discovery.

As for Lawrence, well, if you're a betting man, I have your odds.

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Put it this way: Don't be surprised if Lawrence, like so many other young'uns before her, floats away from the Feb. 24 ceremony with a small bald man as her date. If she does, you should know that she will not be the youngest actress to take the prize. That honor belongs to Marlee Matlin, who took home a Best Actress award in 1987 at the age of 21 for Children of a Lesser God.

Also, consider: Lawrence will compete with 9-year-old Beasts of the Southern Wild cutie Quvenzhané Wallis, a real newcomer, for the Best Actress honor this year. And, in the words of Fordham University media studies professor Paul Levinson, "I don't think [Wallis] stands a chance.

"That would be the most revolutionary choice for the Academy because she is the youngest actress ever to get a nomination. And her performance was excellent, but not as good as some of the others."

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Lawrence's true competition comes from 35-year-old Jessica Chastain, she of the controversial Zero Dark Thirty. At this hour, she has the most buzz and, therefore, the highest chance of winning. But then again, she also has a strike against her, one that isn't even her fault.

"The problem with that whole movie," Levinson points out, "is that it's not 100 percent clear what statement the filmmakers wanted to make. Any awards that the movie wins will have political baggage."

And if there's one thing the Academy doesn't like, it's political baggage.

So where does that put Lawrence's chances in the grand scheme? I suspect that Chastain is still the contender right now, but not by much.

"Why not have somebody young win an Oscar?" posits Rob Weiner, film historian at Texas Tech University. "Generally speaking, very, very young people don't often win the Oscar, but good acting is good acting."

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