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Jennifer Lawrence is the Favorite for Best Actress. But What Does That Mean?

Going into tonight's Academy Awards, Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence is the favorite to win Best Actress—but no shoo-in.Lawrence, star of Silver Linings Playbook, would become the second-youngest Best Actress winner in history and the win would be another indicator—on top of the $408-million domestic gross for last year's Hunger Games, in which she also starred—that the 22-year-old is among Hollywood's elite.Predicting the outcomes from the Oscars has become to the entertainment news media what a presidential election is to the political news media—something to gab about, something to mull over and an opportunity to make bold predictions. The difference is that political pundits have polls. In this way, the Academy Awards are more like a Conclave; divining who'll win comes mostly from chatter and conjecture.Regardless, Lawrence appears likeliest to win an Academy Award for Best Actress in her second time nominated, according to prognosticators ranging from Movieline to New York Magazine's entertainment blog to FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver.In fact, this is the general agreement of the most recent predictions I surveyed from those entertainment news sources, plus Huffington Post,New York Magazine's Vulture blog,The New York Time's Carpetbagger blog,Hollywood Reporterand Entertainment Weekly.Huffington Post says: Silver Linings Playbook wasn't even Jennifer Lawrence's most popular movie this year—that would be —The Hunger Games—but her endearing performance as an eccentric young widow has her team expecting gold.Carpetbagger blogger Melena Ryzik writes that Lawrence's role in Silver Linings Playbook is "the kind of multilayered turn that actors, the largest voting body in the Academy, love."The Vulture blog says that a win for her would amounts to a "coronation."But J-Law fans shouldn't just yet get the champagne ready to uncork or start prepping couches for torching tonight—however they prefer to celebrate. Some categories are practically already decided—Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor, Anne Hathaway for Supporting Actress—but Best Actress isn't among them."This is a close one, and not a lock by any means," Entertainment Weekly says.So say you're not an Oscars obsessive or a movie buff, but you're interested because, well, J-Law. Who's the competition?Depending on where you look, Lawrence may lose to either Zero Dark Thirty star Jessica Chastain or Amour star Emmanuelle Riva.Movieline notesthat Riva is 85 years old and a first-time nominee—a fact that voters may notice."In other words, Lawrence and Chastain will be back and this is Riva's first, and presumably last, bid for an Academy Award," writes Movieline's Donald Liebenson.Riva won a BAFTA Award for best actress for the French-language film, beating both Chastain and Lawrence.Early on, Chastain appeared to be a strong contender, but Zero Dark Thirty has been muddled in controversy, particularly over its depiction of torture. Chastain won a Golden Globe for best actress in a drama; Lawrence won the Golden Globefor best actress in a comedy or musical.Lawrence has also won a few other awards for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, including a Screen Actors Guild Award and, on Saturday, an Independent Spirit Award.For her part, Lawrence recently told WFPL that she's less nervous with the Academy Awards buzz than in 2011,when she was a newcomer to the Oscars scene."I'm just trying to have more fun with it," Lawrence told WFPL in a recent telephone interview.The Academy Awards begin at 8:30 p.m. ABC begins broadcasting at 7 p.m.Hours later—maybe several hours later—we'll know if Louisville can claim a reigning Oscar winner among its own.

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

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