By Scott Youngbauer

As the seemingly sweet mother to a family of brooding Aussie gangsters Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom commands the screen with a performance that’s controlled, and above all scary to watch unfold.  Called “Smurf” by her boys, this woman’s sly manipulation sneaks up on her grandson Joshua, who has started to become a bit of a problem for the matriarch and her boys. Smurf is a strong woman who will stand in the way of nothing that comes between her sons.

When reviewing the film back in August, she was the one thing about that resonated the most.  The film itself is good, but Weaver’s flawless performance made it great. Weaver may be one of the must underrated Australian actresses working today. She has done mostly television work, but is most known for the cult Peter Weir film Picnic at Hanging Rock. If you haven’t seen this beautiful, and creepy masterpiece it’s available on Netflix instant.

The Australian Film Institute Nominations were last week, and Animal Kingdom swept the categories with a jaw dropping 18 nominations, including one for best actress for Jacki Weaver. Come Oscar time could Weaver be a serious contender?

With its warm reception earlier this year at Sundance Film Festival, which won the World Cinema Prize, many seem to think so. Recently Rob Licuria with Awards Heaven calculated that a nomination for supporting actress could be likely, and I couldn’t agree more. I think Jacki Weaver has what it takes to make the cut. There is something about her in this film that makes you walk away in awe of her. It’s almost like an emotional sucker punch what this woman will do to protect her family, even if it means taking out one of her own.

The performance is just what voters love, an older actress who finally gets her due. Her performance is beautiful layered, and one never quite knows what she’s capable of. Weaver might be a fun wild card to throw into the category, and with the film sweeping the AFI nominations it’s a good sign that there are promising things for this film.

Although the film was under the radar for much of the year to mainstream audiences, the film was the critical darling of the summer, and had a strong run in Los Angeles. In almost every review of the film Jacki Weaver was pointed out specifically as being the scene-stealer.  The real challenge with a campaign is for the film to reach voters. What Animal Kingdom has going for it is the DVD release, which will help it find a wider audience.