February 14, 2014 at 1:00 am

2014 Academy Awards

Cate Blanchett's the Oscar frontrunner, but there's a bit of doubt

Cate Blanchett stars as a once-rich woman who moves in with her sister in 'Blue Jasmine.' (Sony Pictures Classics)

One woman has dominated the race for this year’s best actress Oscar for more than six months, and she remains dominant in the eyes of most.

That would be Cate Blanchett for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” and it’s no small thing to hold on to frontrunner status in an Oscar race for half a year. Still, her performance as a fragile fallen woman of wealth was both dazzling and heartbreaking, and the Academy obviously loves her: This is her sixth nomination.

She won once (supporting actress for “The Aviator”) and is one of the few people who has had simultaneous acting nominations (best actress in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and supporting for “I’m Not There” in 2007).

But there remain some question marks in the race, not the least being whether the sudden dirty flurry of recycled and unsubstantiated sexual allegations about “Blue Jasmine” writer-director Allen might have some effect on things. Hopefully not, since they have nothing to do with Blanchett’s performance, but smear campaigns have been known to work.

Still, there are other factors in play as well. Let’s look at the nominees:

Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County”: At this point, Meryl seems to be getting nominations just to keep her numbers climbing (for the record, 18 noms, 3 wins). But there’s no way Streep will win for the pill-popping, cancer-riddled monstrous matriarch in this film. For one thing, as written, this is a character to be played, not inhabited. True, Streep has a lot of fun with the part, but fun rarely wins an Oscar. Don’t worry, she’ll be back. And back. And back.

Sandra Bullock for “Gravity”: This is Bullock’s second nomination, following her somewhat surprising best actress win in 2010 for “The Blind Side.” And “Gravity” commands a lot of respect, both as a visual wonder and as the biggest commercial success among this year’s best picture nominees. Beyond that, Bullock is on her own, floating through space for much of the film. The movie is considered more of a technical accomplishment than an acting showcase, and Sandy did just win four years ago.

Judi Dench for “Philomena”: Never rule out the sentimental favorite, especially when she’s playing beautifully against type — Philomena has no regal tones at all — and when rumors of impending blindness and subsequent retirement keep floating around (let’s hope they are just rumors). This is Dame Judi’s whopping seventh nomination, but she’s only won once, a supporting statue for her brief appearance in 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love.” So this would be a nice way to honor one of the greats as she approaches 80. It would be a win no one could argue with. But it’s doubtful.

Amy Adams for “American Hustle”: If anyone has the potential to upset Blanchett’s apple cart come Oscar night it’s Adams. She’s scored five nominations in just the past eight years, with three in the last four. She’s certainly due. And the character she plays in “Hustle,” a con woman who travels back and forth between British and American accents, is a wonder of subtle shades beneath a flashy exterior. There’s still a chance “Hustle” might sweep come Oscar night, in which case she wins. Even if the film doesn’t sweep, don’t count her out.

Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”: Woody Allen famously writes Oscar-winning roles for women with Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest (twice), Mira Sorvino and Penélope Cruz all winning gold over the years, and many others landing nominations. But Jasmine — even her name is fake — is a bundle of delusions and duplicity made completely unique by Blanchett. She’s been the frontrunner since the movie opened, and there’s good reason why. Yes, there’s a shadow of a doubt. But just a shadow.

Who should win: Amy Adams for “American Hustle”

Who will win: Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine”

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