I really don’t have that much history to lay on you for either of these categories. They pick what they feel is the best lead performance by a male and a female each year. That’s all it is. Well, not all, but —
The best thing I can say about the Best Actor category is that in 82 years of handing out statues, I only categorically disagree with about a dozen or so choices (maybe a few more, depending on what I’ve yet to see). So, with the amount of career achievement awards and makeup Oscars and bad decisions, that’s not bad.
Best Actress — well, that’s another story. I probably need to see a lot more performances before I decide on those. Best Actress tends to be the category with the most “lone” nominations. That is, the films that the actresses are nominated for tend to be films that don’t get other major nominations. This doesn’t happen all the time, but there are always one or two per year. That adds up to a lot. Plus, above all, Best Actress is the popularity contest Oscar.
I wonder why more people don’t call the Academy out on that one. Best Actor, it’s about the performance (and sometimes about awarding veterans or whatever), but in Best Actress, it really is the equivalent of, “Look at her, ain’t she cute?” Very 50s workplace. Don’t believe me? Reese Witherspoon. I know she won in a weak year, and I’d probably have voted for her too, but, you can’t really explain why she won. It’s essentially the, “You’re a Classy Dame” award, most years. Or it’s makeup Oscar or veteran award. In fact, on brief glance, only twice in the past decade has the Oscar gone to a performance performance. Everything else wasn’t awarded best primarily on performance. That doesn’t happen with Best Actor. Does it?