Jessica Chastain owns the box office in 'Mama,' 'Zero Dark Thirty' during crucial Oscar window

Posted by · 9:53 am · January 19th, 2013

The story of today isn’t quite what’s happening in Park City but what’s happening at multiplexes across the country. Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is leading the charge with the top two films at the box office, Andrés Muschietti’s “Mama” and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” That ought to put to rest any idle speculation that the former, which is decently reviewed, would somehow “Norbit” her Oscar hopes.

It’s also rare for an actress, particularly one this fresh on the scene, to have such a dominant force at the box office in two separate films. That will be part of the story if Sony is smart with the handling of this Best Actress campaign. Last year’s “it girl” buzz was in no way a feint. She’s the real deal and she’s a big part of this industry going forward.

Nevertheless, the Best Actress category is intriguing right now. Jennifer Lawrence gave an excellent speech at the Golden Globes last weekend and has the power of Harvey to compel them (plus a Saturday Night Live hosting stint all lined up for tonight). Emmanuelle Riva, meanwhile, is in a real position to win if Sony Classics plays the right tune. Naomi Watts and Quvenzhané Wallis even have angles on the race, to be perfectly honest. So I wouldn’t go trimming this down to a two- or three-horse race just yet. The SAG Awards next weekend will give a decent indication, but even then, the Academy could go its own way — just as they did last year.

For now, though, and at an obviously crucial time, Chastain is the name on everyone’s lips. Your move, Harvey.

“Mama” and “Zero Dark Thirty” are now playing at a theater near you.

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