Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, Blue Is The Warmest Color
Though 19 year old Adèle Exarchopoulos and 28 year old Léa Seydoux are getting a lot more attention for their shared explicit sex scenes and, more over, their offscreen conflicts with director Abdellatif Kechiche, that should definitely not take away from the extraordinary feat they pulled off as actresses in "Blue Is The Warmest Color." As lovers Adèle and Emma, the pair offer one of the most penetrating portraits of the rise and fall of passionate love in recent memory, leaving us devastated in its wake. Certainly more brave than their epic sex scenes is the emotional vulnerability each possess on screen, but hopefully the former gets the large older male contingent of the Academy to pop in their screeners and see what is the true highlight of "Blue." And yes, it's true Exarchopoulos and Seydoux make it four French actresses in a row on this list. The chances of them all making Oscar's cut is next to impossible, but it sure does make clear that France's tendency to bring forth the greatest actresses in the world is alive and well.
Paulina Garcia, Gloria
Sebastián Lelio's "Gloria" stands a very good chance at representing Chile in the foreign language film category (where it could compete against the aforementioned "The Past"), but it is more than deserving of a second nomination. Paulina García -- winner of the best actress prize at the Berlin International Film Festival this past February -- truly casts a spell as the title character, a 58 year old divorcée determined to defy her age and not spend her nights alone. García is heartbreaking, hilarious and honest -- sometimes all at once -- in the kind of role 58 year old American actresses would rarely ever get a chance to place. But I'd question whether even Ms. Meryl Streep herself could pull of Gloria like Paulina García.
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Notably the second actress on this list to be working from a script she co-wrote, Greta Gerwig gives a career-making performance in her Noah Baumbach collaboration "Frances Ha." Though Gerwig has shown considerable potential in films like "Nights and Weekends" (which she also co-wrote and co-director), Baumbach's previous film "Greenberg" and last years' Whit Stillman offering "Damsels in Distress," her turn as a twentysomething mess trying to figure it out in "Frances Ha" brought her to a whole new level (and frankly, showed Lena Dunham how it's done). Turning what could have easily been an annoying caricature into an endearing and complex character, Gerwig also showed off some impressive physical comedy skills while breaking our heart just a little bit at the same time. It's not the type of role Oscar ever seems to reward, but here's to Gerwig at least managing a deserved Indie Spirit nomination (she was bizarrely snubbed at the Gothams) and maybe even a Golden Globe nod in the musical/comedy category.