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The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview

This is a star-packed group of ladies.

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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, my friends, is the Oscars. The Academy Awards arrives early next year, February 22, and nominations will be announced on January 15. 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 Supporting Actress.

The big thing to know about the movies is, as William Goldman said, "Nobody knows anything." So it's silly to anoint anyone 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 Supporting 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 Titanic, there's a Hurt Locker. So let's see which actresses the experts like, and which they're overlooking.

Past previews: Best Picture | Best Actress | Best Actor

[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 Supporting Actress

Five women will be nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category. Of the 22 experts polled on GoldDerby, there were three women who garnered more than 20 votes for a nomination: Patricia Arquette, Laura Dern, and Emma Stone. These ladies are the clear favorites and we'll examine their roles more below. But, one of the actresses clearly stands out above the rest. Arquette, who co-stars in Boyhood, not only was the only unanimous selection for this category (22 votes), she received a whopping 19 first place votes. That is a huge number at this early date.

Boyhood, written and directed by Richard Linklater, is currently the leading contender for Best Picture on GoldDerby. Filmed over the course of 12 years, Arquette and the rest of the cast reunited each year to allow their characters to age in real time. The effect is profound and Linklater's film is a stirring commentary on modern families and a celebration of the unheralded moments in life. Arquette plays Olivia Evans, the mother of the film's protagonist, Mason. She's a single mom trying to give her kids stability while looking for her own. Like her children, Olivia grows up throughout the course of the movie, and Arquette is about as natural as it gets.

  • Patricia Arquette

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Laura Dern

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Emma Stone

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Keira Knightley

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Meryl Streep

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Vanessa Redgrave

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Jessica Chastain

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Anna Kendrick

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Carrie Coon

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview
  • Sienna Miller

    The 2014 Oscar Race: Best Supporting Actress Preview

As great as Arquette is, she'll face some tough competition from Dern, Stone, and Keira Knightley, who snagged 18 expert votes for a herself for The Imitation Game. Of course, it's so early, this could all change. But industry experts can usually tell by now who the real contenders are. So with that said, let's take a look at the rest of the field. This is a breakdown of the top ten Best Supporting Actress Oscar contenders for 2014, according to the GoldDerby panel of experts: 

1. Patricia Arquette: Boyhood - Consider the dedication needed to see a film through to the end over the course of more than a decade. Then consider the performance is as natural and as fluid as one shot over the course of a month. The key to Arquette's character in Boyhood isn't what you see, it's what you don't. She's so good as Olivia Evans, the struggling single mom who grows into a mature college professor, that you never notice the method. (22 expert votes for Best Supporting Actress, 19 to win)

2a. Laura Dern: Wild - Dern plays Bobbi Lambrecht in Wild, the mother of Reese Witherspoon's main character, Cheryl Strayed. We get to know Bobbi in flashback as the film uses a fractured narrative, but her presence is huge throughout. Strayed embarks on a 1000 mile hike after a series of incidents in her life causes her to rethink things. Her mother's death is one of them and Dern shows us why Bobbi was such a giant influence on her adventurous daughter. (20, 2)

2b. Emma Stone: Birdman - This is easily the 25-year-old Stone's finest work. Shedding the goofy nice girl persona we all love, she plays Samantha, a spitfire who's fresh out of rehab and helping her father (Michael Keaton) get his Broadway play off the ground. Her past, though it's never shown, is tumultuous and Sam wears her heart on her sleeve. She's a powder keg, ready to blow up at her disappointment of a dad at any instant, while remaining clearly vulnerable. (21, 1)

4. Keira Knightley: The Imitation Game - If you've seen the trailer for The Imitation Game, you'll notice Knightley clearly stands out in the crowd. The film, about Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the team who helped break the Nazi Enigma Code during World War II, is one of the Best Picture front runners and Knightley is a big reason why. She plays the lone female on the team and a genius, by the way, who gives the story needed comic relief. (18, 0)

5. Meryl Streep: Into the Woods - Reviews aren't out yet for Into the Woods so the experts are "gambling" a bit that Streep, the most decorated actor of all time, will win a nomination. She plays the Witch in the film, based on the Stephen Sondheim musical, about many of the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters. (10, 0)

6. Vanessa Redgrave: Foxcatcher - Redgrave portrays the revered mother to Steve Carell's schizophrenic John du Pont in Foxcatcher. It's a character made for the classically trained actress, who tends to thrive in roles with real gravitas. Jean du Pont, the grande dame of the wealthy du Pont family, is one of these. Plus, Redgrave is an actor's actress and is always in awards season talk. This year is no different. (5, 0)

7. Jessica Chastain: Interstellar - Chastain, an Academy favorite, has a couple of other impressive roles this year (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, A Most Violent Year) she may be nominated in the Best Actress category for, but Interstellar is her best chance for a nod. Christopher Nolan's new film takes us to the furthest reaches of space as an astronaut (Matthew McConaughey) looks for a new planet for humans to inhabit. Chastain plays his daughter, an astrophysicist back on Earth, who was a little girl when her dad first launched. (3, 0)

8. Anna Kendrick: Into the Woods - Kendrick has done nothing but impress ever since turning heads in Rocket Science seven years ago. She scored a nomination in this category for Up in the Air, and it's probably only a matter of time until she wins. In Into the Woods, she plays Cinderella, a glamorous role that will show off that great singing voice she previewed in Pitch Perfect. (2, 0)

9. Carrie Coon: Gone Girl - Coon, best known as the severely damaged Nora Durst on HBO's The Leftovers, proved she could handle a major big screen role in Gone Girl. She plays Nick Dunne's (Ben Affleck) loyal sister who stands by her brother while he's skewered in the press after his wife's disappearance. (2, 0)

10. Sienna Miller: American Sniper - Miller plays Taya Renae Kyle, wife of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) in American Sniper. She stays home while her husband becomes the deadliest sniper in American military history overseas. Then she supports him when he comes home and struggles to adjust. This is a serious role based on a real person and it may be Miller's best work yet. (2, 0)

Other potential contenders who shouldn't be overlooked: Julianne MooreMaps to the Stars, Dorothy Atkinson: Mr. Turner, Anne Hathaway: Interstellar, Kristen Stewart: Still Alice, Katherine Waterson: Inherent Vice, Carmen Ejogo: Selma, Rene Russo: Nightcrawler, Jessica Lange: The Gambler, Oprah Winfrey: The Gambler, Tilda Swinton: Snowpiercer

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