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”).
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.