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Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2014 Best Actress Nominees

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 28, 2013 at 12:00PM

The recent Oscars, it should be said, were not a headline year for the Best Actress race. Of course Emmanuelle Riva, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence et al were thoroughly deserving of their nominations, but the category was generally deemed to be a bit thin by Oscar watchers, with something of a dearth of good female roles, bar the five that were nominated (plus a handful of others overlooked by the Academy, like Marion Cotillard in "Rust and Bone" and Emayatzy Corinealdi in "Middle of Nowhere").
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Possibilities

Serena Jennifer Lawrence Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence - "Serena"
The "Silver Linings Playbook" star might still be blowing the engraving dust off her Oscar, but she's hardly letting up; 2013 sees another "Hunger Games" coming, a reunion with David O. Russell (in a smaller role, this time), and most importantly for our purposes, "Serena." Reteaming her with Bradley Cooper, this time for director Susanne Bier, it's a definite change of pace; a period drama about a couple trying to make their lumber fortune in Appalachia in the 1920s. And Lawrence has a killer role, landing somewhere between Lady Macbeth and Daniel Plainview. Had Lawrence not won this weekend, we feel like she'd be a virtual lock -- as it is, voters may feel that a third nomination in four years could be too much, especially if the film doesn't work. But if Bier can pull it off, Lawrence could well be at the Dolby Theater again, and may even trip her way up to the podium for the second year in a row.

Jeremy Renner Marion Cotillard Low Life
Marion Cotillard - "Lowlife"
Many believed that Marion Cotillard should have picked up another nomination this year for "Rust & Bone" -- the actress was certainly in the running, and probably only just missed out on the final five. But she'll get another shot, teaming up with James Gray for "Lowlife," in which she plays an immigrant forced into prostitution before falling in love with a magician (Jeremy Renner). As we said yesterday, Gray's never been an Oscar favorite, but with a period piece and three awards favorites in the cast (Joaquin Phoenix also features), that could change this year, not least with Cotillard who has the lead role and whose character seems to undergo the kind of suffering that Academy voters eat up. We still wonder if "Lowlife" is likely to be this year's equivalent to "The Master" (a critical favorite, but less so with the Academy), but given that "The Master" still picked up three Oscar nods for its actors, Cotillard's very much in the running.

Felicity Jones The Invisible Woman
Felicity Jones - "The Invisible Woman"
The subject of light Oscar speculation for "Like Crazy" two years back, which never came to pass, Felicity Jones hasn't rushed into big roles, with most of her subsequent films ("Hysteria," "Cheerful Weather For The Wedding") flying somewhat under the radar (though she has just nabbed a part in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"). But that could change with "The Invisible Woman," the second directorial feature from Ralph Fiennes, which sees the actor/filmmaker also play Charles Dickens. But as the title might suggest, it's Jones who'll be front and center, playing Nelly Ternan, a young actress who became Dickens' mistress. Jones is undeniably talented, and with a script from "The Iron Lady" writer Abi Morgan, this should be taken very seriously, even if period pieces of late haven't been the home runs in this category that they once were.

Philomena Lee Judi Dench Steve Coogan Stephen Frears
Judi Dench - "Philomena"
Yes, we know you haven't heard of this film, which marks one of the few times that Judi Dench could ever be described as an Oscar wild card. But when you look at it on paper, it's certainly a film worth considering here. The Oscar winner (who had buzz last year for "Skyfall" and "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," but hasn't had a nomination since "Notes On A Scandal" in 2007) plays the titular Philomena Lee who, as a pregnant teenager in Ireland, was forced by nuns to sell her illegitimate baby to a couple in Missouri. Years later, aided by journalist, civil servant and "The Thick Of It" adviser Martin Sixsmith (who wrote the source material, "The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee"), she set out in search of her child. While it's directed by Stephen Frears, who's been off his game of late, one shouldn't forget that the filmmaker was also behind Helen Mirren's victory for "The Queen." And a script co-written by Steve Coogan (who also plays Sixsmith in the film) could mean that this picture is sharper than its premise suggests. "Philomena" is likely to mostly be under the radar for a while, but it's a definite dark horse. If a big distributor picks it up, this film could gallop ahead.

Untitled Woody Allen
Cate Blanchett - "Blue Jasmine"
We're not all that convinced that Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" will be a big Oscar player -- despite the success of "Midnight In Paris" at the 2012 ceremony, we tend to take a wait-and-see approach on the prolifically inconsistent filmmaker's new output. But we're definitely keeping an eye on the film, if only because it features Cate Blanchett in the lead role. The Australian actress is a five-time nominee but hasn't had a nomination since 2008, so is certainly overdue for a return, and if anyone can bring something fresh to an Allen protagonist (in this case, a wealthy Bay Area woman who faces financial difficulties), it's her. We're also intrigued about the film for another reason, in that Blanchett's casting feels to us like it could signify a return to the director's more Bergman-influenced work. But then, Louis CK and Andrew Dice Clay are among the supporting cast, so we're probably wrong on that front.

This article is related to: Features, Awards, Academy Awards, Oscars, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Premature Oscar Predictions


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