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Oscars 2022: Will Caitriona Balfe go head to head with West Side Story's Rita Moreno?

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The 2022 awards season is crowded with favorites already but Outlander's Caitriona Balfe isn't just in the running for her first ever Oscar nomination but perhaps her first ever win.

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The Irish actress, best known as Claire Fraser in the Starz drama series Outlander, stars in Kenenth Branagh's moving semi-autobiographical tale Belfast, about the beginning of the Irish troubles in the late 1960s. She seems guaranteed one of the five spots for the 2022 Oscars, the pinnacle of the awards season after picking up nods for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture at the 2022 Golden Globes, and Best Supporting Actress at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards, both key indicators on the way to the Oscars.

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WATCH: Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe in Belfast

Her performance as the Ma, the mother of young Buddy, a nine-year-old boy from a working class Northern Irish Protestant family whose Pa (played by Jamie Dornan) works overseas in England, won rave reviews and she remains a top pick by experts and critics.

But there is stiff competition, with Kirsten Dunst another favorite to win her first little gold statue for her role as an alcoholic and depressed mother in Netflix's The Power of the Dog, and Rita Moreno considered a shoo-in for a nomination for her work in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

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Rita's nomination would also make for history-making story for the Oscars, as she won in 1962 for the original adaptation in which she starred as Maria's best friend, Anita.

For the new version, Spielberg reimagined the role of Doc, Tony's confidante, to Valentina, a role for Rita, and her powerful performance seems likely to garner her an Oscar nod. She would become the first person to win twice for the same film, and the oldest nominee - and potential winner - ever.

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Rita's nomination would also make for history-making story for the Oscars

However, she was snubbed from the Golden Globes nominations but did pick up a Critics Choice nod, as did her co-star Ariana DeBose who has tackled Rita's original role as Anita.

The first reactions to the film praised Ariana in particular, a Broadway star who is making her big screen debut in the film; she also starred in Netflix's The Prom in 2019.

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Ariana was praised for her performance

"Ariana DeBose is bonkers good," shared one critic as another tweeted: "I can’t wait to see Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose’s careers explode after this. They knock it out of the park as Maria and Anita in this beautifully crafted movie."

Other favorites include Aunjanue Ellis from King Richard, Marlee Matlin for Coda, and Ruth Negga for Passing.

Judi Dench (Belfast), Ann Dowd (Mass), and Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter) are all also in the conversation.

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