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The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview

The names are starting to roll in: Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and a few surprises you may like.

Transmission | FameFlynet | TWC

Welcome to Awards Season! The glitz, the glamour — it's almost overwhelming! But we all know there's really only one awards show and that, dear friends, is the Oscars. The Academy Awards arrives early next year, February 22, and nominations will be announced January 15th. Expect the competitive juices to flow as films and distribution companies jockey for a place at Oscar's table over the coming months. What can we expect? Who are the actors poised to take home little gold men come February? We'll look to answer those questions and many others with our Oscar Race previews over the next few weeks. This week, we'll be examining the race for Best Actress.

The big thing to know about the movies is, as William Goldman said, "Nobody knows anything." So it's silly to anoint any actor a winner this early in the season. But that's exactly what we're going to do here.

With a little help from GoldDerby, the resident internet experts on all things Oscar, we'll break down the Best Actress category by projected nominees while targeting some of the more under the radar thespians yet to generate buzz. Oscar season is always predictable and unpredictable. For every Marisa Tomei, there's a Meryl Streep. So let's see which actresses the experts like, and which they're overlooking.

[Editor's note: GoldDerby aggregates the opinions of film critics and experts from publications such as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, iMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes. You can find the data used for this article here.]

Best Actress

Five women may be nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award. Of the 21 experts polled by GoldDerby, only one was unanimously chosen for a nomination: Reese Witherspoon for her work in Wild. However, the experts don't like to her to win. Witherspoon was only given three first place votes. Who do the experts like? Julianne Moore in Still Alice is the answer and the clear favorite at this point in time. She garnered 12 first place votes and 19 overall, making her the heavy favorite to win. 

Witherspoon, if history tells us anything, has little chance to score a statue, but a great shot at a nomination. She plays Cheryl Strayed in Wild, a woman at a crossroads who sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. It's a true story directed by 2013 nominee Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), but these types of "Outdoor Hero" roles don't have a winning history at the Oscars. Think about the fates of Into the Wild, 127 Hours, and Cast Away. The last two snagged Best Actor nominations for James Franco and Tom Hanks, respectively, but neither had a shot at winning. The Academy may feel another lame duck Outdoor Hero nomination is pointless. 

  • Julianne Moore

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Reese Witherspoon

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Amy Adams

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Rosamund Pike

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Felicity Jones

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Hilary Swank

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Jessica Chastain

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Shailene Woodley

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview
  • Mia Wasikowska

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Actress Preview

And then we have the illustrious Moore, arguably the most-decorated actress never to have won an Oscar. She's been nominated four times without a win, but 2014 may be her year. She plays a cognitive psychologist in Still Alice who's diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. If that sentence alone doesn't scream Best Actress, I don't know what would. The cards are stacked in her favor and she also has an incredible supporting performance to her credit this year (Maps to the Stars).

Here's a breakdown of the top nine Best Actress Oscar contenders for 2014, according to the GoldDerby panel of experts: 

1. Julianne Moore: Still Alice - As described above, Moore plays a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's whose entire life changes in the blink of an eye. The film examines how the diagnosis affects her day to day life as she struggles to adjust and balance everything with her family, career, and friends. (19 expert votes for Best Actress, 12 to win)

2. Reese Witherspoon: Wild - Witherspoon leaves her makeup and heels at home as she portrays true life adventurist Cheryl Strayed, a woman looking to ditch the failures of her real life and the death of her mother in the rearview. She hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone, a journey of over 1000 miles, as she tries to find herself. (21, 3)

3. Amy Adams: Big Eyes - Another true story, Big Eyes stars Adams as Margaret Keane, an artist whose work was stolen by her own husband, who took all the credit. The film will center around their courtroom battle for the rights to her popular paintings. (16, 3)

4. Rosamund Pike: Gone Girl - Amy Dunne, the mysterious anti-heroine of David Fincher's Gone Girl disappears one day from her comfortable life in suburban Missouri. Did her husband (Ben Affleck) murder her? The entire world seems to think so. The answer is hidden brilliantly by the film, and by Pike, who gives Amy her strange allure. (16, 2)

5. Felicity Jones: The Theory of Everything - The story of Stephen Hawking's college years centers around his romance with Jane Wilde (Jones) who falls for the brilliant physicist and stays with him as his body succumbs to ALS. (14, 1)

6. Hilary Swank: The Homesman - Swank, ever the brave soul, plays an uppity, headstrong frontier woman in The Homesman. She's desperate for a husband, but her moral compass finds her leading a wagon of three insane women over the course of a two month journey to return them to the east for care. (8, 0) 

7. Jessica Chastain: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby - Chastain, who plays the title character, gives an emotional performance as a married woman who leaves her husband after a tragic event hurts their family deeply. (5, 0) 

8. Shailene Woodley: The Fault in Our Stars - As the lovelorn cancer patient at the forefront of The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley left nary a dry eye in the house this year. She plays Hazel, diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer, a 16-year-old who falls for a damaged boy and makes her question the nature of love. (2, 0)

9. Mia Wasikowska: Tracks - Like Witherspoon in Wild, Wasikowska also starred in an Outdoor Hero film this year. She plays Robyn Davidson in Tracks, a brave young woman who walks across 1700 miles of Australian desert with her well-trained camels and trusty dog, Diggity. (2, 0) 

Other potential contenders who shouldn't be overlooked: Marion Cotillard: The Immigrant, Jessica Chastain: A Most Violent Year, Emily Blunt: Into the Woods, Marion Cotillard: Two Days, One Night, Rosario Dawson: Top Five, Maggie Smith: My Old Lady, Kristen Wiig: The Skeleton Twins, Jennifer Lawrence: Serena, Stacy Martin: Nymphomaniac Vol. I, Scarlett Johansson: Under the Skin

Past articles in this series:

The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Picture

View Felicity Jones Pictures »