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Best Actress Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED

Best Actress Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED

We pick the final five performances that lead the Best Actress field.
1. Julianne Moore is heartbreaking in “Still Alice,” an intimate portrait of a brainy and beautiful Columbia University professor who has everything going for her: a satisfying career, a hunky loving husband (Alec Baldwin) and three thriving grown children. When she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, she and her family struggle to cope as her memories and ability to navigate her world slowly slip away. 

At 53, after four nominations (two in 2002), this well-liked and respected actress has delivered the role that could win her the Oscar. Sometimes it’s just the right time. Moore won Best Actress at Cannes playing an aging diva in David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars,” but Focus Features did not step up to a proper theatrical push, shunting the film over to its digital arm Focus World, which gave the film a qualifying run for the Golden Globes (she was nominated) before its February 2015 release. As soon as Sony Pictures Classics acquired “Still Alice” out of Toronto, the film became an Oscar contender and “Maps to the Stars” a contributing factor to Moore’s real Best Actress run.  SAG-nominated and winner of the Drama Golden Globe, this is Moore’s fifth nomination and her third for Best Actress (“The End of the Affair,” “Far from Heaven”).

2. Reese Witherspoon had to strip down to lean muscle and a bare face to portray long-distance hiker and memoirist Cheryl Strayed in “Wild.” Director Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) put 38-year-old Witherspoon through a rigorous shoot — she had to carry a 60-pound pack called The Monster— and allowed no mirrors on location. Witherspoon is believable and moving in the film, which avoids becoming monotonous thanks to dramatic flashbacks to her past as she recalls the relationships with the mother (Laura Dern) she lost to cancer and the husband (Thomas Sadowski) she lost to drugs and sex addiction. The movie is a redemption saga as this woman walks through her pain in order to return to life. 

  

Fox Searchlight knows how to manage this sort of release, with Witherspoon at the center of their push which has already yielded SAG and Globe nominations. This is her second Oscar nomination after her win for “Walk the Line.” 

3. Felicity Jones plays a university literature student in James Marsh’s two-hander “The Theory of Everything” who falls in love with young physicist Stephen Hawking and refuses to abandon him after he is diagnosed with ALS. She saves his life, literally, and together they raise a family as he figures out the universe. The movie looks at a genius through the prism of his domestic life and the woman who made his achievements possible. Jones, 31, ages from teenager through middle age, and never gives a false note, holding her own with fellow Brit Redmayne as they become one body. She reads his emotions and helps us to understand them, making their relationship believable. 

Jones has continued to do strong work since she won Sundance and Gotham breakthrough awards for “Like Crazy,” and also impressed opposite Ralph Fiennes in “The Invisible Woman.” The hard-working SAG and Globe nominee has earned her first Oscar nomination. Oscar perennials Working Title and Focus Features have not missed a trick since the film was the hit of Toronto.

4. Rosamund Pike
, 35, makes the most of David Fincher and Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her mystery-thriller “Gone Girl” as the Amazing Amy, a complex and sophisticated Manhattan beauty who loves and marries a man (Ben Affleck) she thinks she knows, only to become disappointed in him when they move to the midwest. When she abruptly disappears, leaving her partner the prime police suspect, her diary relates her point-of-view on the unfolding drama, but she turns out to be an unreliable narrator in more ways than one. 

Fincher cast Pike, he said, because he couldn’t pin her down from the roles she has played. They range from “Die Another Day” Bond Girl to strong often comedic supporting roles in “Pride & Prejudice,” “An Education,” Made in Dagenham,” “Reacher” and “The World’s End.”  

Fox’s “Gone Girl” is a huge hit, which means that Academy voters have seen it. While they may consider the movie more of an enjoyable potboiler than award material, nonetheless the Oscar voters followed the Golden Globes’ lead and took Pike’s plum role more seriously than the movie itself. This is Pike’s first nomination.

5. Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for “La Vie en Rose,” but has finally landed a second nomination after a series of excellent follow-up performances in “Nine,” “Rust and Bone” and “The Immigrant.” This year’s Belgian Oscar entry, Cannes contender “Two Days, One Night” from the Dardenne brothers (which did not land on the Oscar shortlist), offers yet another stellar turn from the 39-year-old French star as an emotionally fragile factory manager who has been laid off from her job and must convince her fellow workers to give up their bonuses in order to restore her position. Critics’ group awards for “The Immigrant” boosted her cause, along with a European Film Awards win for Best Actress, but when Cotillard didn’t land SAG or Globe nods, IFC/Sundance Selects pushed the open-ended run for the well-reviewed Dardennes film to January 9, the day after Oscar ballots were due. They should have had more faith!

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