Emily Blunt "Into the Woods"
Felicity Jones "The Theory of Everything"
Julianne Moore "Still Alice"
Rosemund Pike "Gone Girl"
Reese Witherspoon "Wild"
Other Contenders - Amy Adams "Big Eyes", Shailene Woodley "The Fault in Our Stars", Hilary Swank "The Homesman", Angelina Jolie "Maleficent", Jennifer Aniston "Cake", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "Belle", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "Beyond the Lights", Marion Cotillard "Two Days, One Night", Helen Mirren "The Hundred-Foot Journey", Jenny Slate "Obvious Child", Maggie Smith "My Old Lady", Emma Stone "Magic in the Moonlight"
Commentary - This is an incredibly weak year that even though Big Eyes kind of landed soft, perennial favorite Amy Adams could easily slide in here, although I think her chances of winning are decreased dramatically, unless the Academy decides it is her time. At the moment, I have her in sixth place, as there is one more big contender that could easily get in. On the opposite end, Julianne Moore is riding that narrative high right now, easily leading the pack with not only a praised performance, but an industry that seems finally ready to give her an Oscar. Recent winner Reese Witherspoon is finally bringing Wild to the domestic markets, and not a moment too soon as buzz for the film has almost died. But I think that no matter what happens in this race Witherspoon is going to be a big player throughout the season, and Wild could easily recapture its festival spirit and pull off another Dallas Buyers Club. I wasn't sure if both would get in, but it looks like in this weaker field that two newcomers will join the race in the likes of Felicity Jones and Rosemund Pike. Both are getting rave reviews in top Best Picture contenders, and will end up most likely as locks by season's end. So now back to the person I have in place of Amy Adams. Another newcomer that is not new at all, but has yet to break into the Oscar race. Emily Blunt is carrying a lot of Into the Woods, and if the film lands well (and yes, I am aware that that is a big if), she could finally get some recognition, especially if she holds her own up against Meryl Streep. She did it before in The Devil Wears Prada (an Oscar worthy performance unjustly ignored), and she can easily do it again. Beyond these six, we have great performances whose films could hold them back. Shailene Woodley is fantastic, but The Fault in Our Stars is a teen movie. Angelina Jolie is magnificent, but Maleficent had less-than-stellar reviews, and is just kids stuff. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of the hottest rising stars in Hollywood, and neither film looks to be an Academy player. Helen Mirren, Jenny Slate, Maggie Smith, and Emma Stone have to battle against their lightweight films, and Hilary Swanks is about the only think people love in Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman. This really does set a path for those top six to battle it out for five slots. There is one other contender that is on the rise, and that is Jennifer Aniston. She has never really had enough great roles, but she received raves out of Toronto, and if her buzz continues to rise, she could be a real spoiler here.