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Cate Blanchett Could Be Woody Allen’s First Best Actress Since Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall”

At last: we saw Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” tonight in a screening room so full at Sony that an overflow room had to be booked at Dolby down the street. It’s a little early for a real indepth review since “Blue Jasmine” doesn’t open until July 26th. Still, I will tell you that Cate Blanchett is a cinch for a Best Actress nomination. She could win the whole enchilada, too. She’d be Woody’s first Best Actress since Diane Keaton in 1978’s “Annie Hall.”

Woody has had plenty of Best Supporting Actresses, from Dianne Wiest (two wins– “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Bullets Over Broadway”) to Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”), to Penelope Cruz (Vicki Cristina Barcelona”). “Midnight in Paris,” Woody’s biggest movie ever, had no acting nominations but did have a Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay.

“Blue Jasmine” is a sad story with many laughs, an updating of “A Streetcar Named Desire” with l’affaire Madoff. Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, and Bobby Cannavale are just about as superb as any trio could be, with several integral roles beautifully filled out by Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Tammy Blanchard, and Andrew Dice Clay, of all people, who comports himself nicely.

The idea is Ruth Madoff as Blanche DuBois unraveling before our eyes. Blanchett is simply stunning. And it’s nice for her because “Blue Jasmine” is contemporary. Blanchett won her Supporting Oscar for playing Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator.” She’s known for playing Queen Elizabeth I. She’s well versed in Blanche DuBois, having played her in Australia and then at BAM under the direction of Liv Ullmann. I was lucky to see that production. Blanchett is her generation’s Streep and Fonda. She is basically infallible. “Blue Jasmine” takes her to a whole new level.

Best Actress is shaping up as a tough category for 2014: Kidman, Dench, Streep, Roberts, Watts, Winfrey are all in the mix. But Blanchett will be the one to beat, I think.