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Best actress race features oldest and youngest nominees

LOS ANGELES - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences made history Thursday nominating both the oldest - Emmanuelle Riva, 85, in “Amour” - and the youngest - Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” - actresses in the best actress category.

The two will compete against Naomi Watts for her role in “The Impossible,” Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Wallis, who shot the part when she was only 6, had never acted before starring in Benh Zeitlin’s tale of life in the Bayou, while Riva has been at her craft since 1958. Both are nominated for the first time.

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Yet they are up against three actresses, all with previous nominations to their name.

Chastain was an unknown two years ago, yet today marks the 35-year old actress’s second nomination in two years for her lead role as CIA analyst Maya in Kathryn Bigelow’s drama “Zero Dark Thirty.” (She was nominated last year for a supporting role in “The Help.”)

Lawrence, 22, is also an over-achiever, landing her second nomination Thursday morning for her role as a neurotic young widow in David O. Russell’s romantic dramedy. Her first nomination was for 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” She was named best actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and is nominated for both a Golden Globe and SAG Award.

Lawrence is vowing to have a better time this year than in 2011, when the pressure of the night and the events leading up to the show led her call it quits on Oscar night by 10:30. “I was already in bed by then,” she said. It should help that her “Silver Linings” castmates Bradley Cooper, Jackie Weaver and Robert DeNiro will all be on hand as fellow nominees to help her celebrate.

“I have a feeling that no one will allow me to do that this time around,” said Lawrence, who admitted feeling overwhelmed by both the fashion stress and the red carpet interviews. “There is so much pressure that last time I didn’t enjoy it so much. This time I’m going to not let there be too much pressure and just have fun.”

Naomi Watts, 44, was nominated for her part in Juan Antonio Bayona’s harrowing disaster tale “The Impossible.” The actress, 44, previously was nominated for the 2003 drama “21 Grams.” She’s also nominated this year for a Golden Globe and SAG Award.

The news is sweet for Watts, who watched the nominations on TV even though she vowed she wouldn’t for fear of being disappointed. While she wishes more of the cast and filmmakers from “The Impossible” were recognized for their work, she was thrilled to receive well wishes from them Thursday morning - and to specifically receive an email from Maria Belon, the real-life woman on whom her role was based.

“She wrote something, like she always does, that made me cry,” said Watts. “It’s the message I was waiting for.”

Watts is going to try to approach the remainder of the season with the same attitude she believes Belon would. “I feel so connected to this movie and to Maria and her story,” she added. “She would enjoy it. She’s someone that has such a joy of life. I’m always trying to take a page out of her book.”

Last year, Viola Davis (“The Help”) and Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) went head to head throughout the Oscar season with Streep taking home the ultimate prize, for the first time in 29 years.

The 85th Academy Awards will take place Feb. 24 at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

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