Best Supporting Actress
The Top 5
Meryl Streep ("Into The Woods")
Another year, another strong possibility that Meryl Streep will be nominated. This year is something a little different—the actress has as many as four movies that have potential, but they're all essentially supporting roles. "Suffragette" is probably the least likely to lead to a nomination, given that it's already been stated that it'll only be a cameo. Young adult adaptation "The Giver" is probably a stretch unless it turns out to be superb, while the nature of her role in Tommy Lee Jones' "The Homesman" isn't yet known (though that alone could mean that it turns out to be the most dramatically potent). The best bet is certainly "Into The Woods," in which she plays The Witch, a part that won Vanessa Williams a Tony nod in the 2002 Broadway revival of the show. Most productions have tended to give The Baker's Wife (played by Emily Blunt in the film) the leading actress push, which is why we've put Streep here (she also stands a better chance of picking up a fourth Oscar if that's the case), but don't rule out her going lead either.
Anna Kendrick ("Into The Woods")
As it happens, Streep isn't the only possibility for a nomination for "Into The Woods"—the film's a veritable smorgasbord of potential nominations for Supporting Actresses. If Emily Blunt doesn't go lead she could figure in, while newcomers Mackenzie Mauzy and young Lilla Crawford, as Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood respectively, could end up being the ones. But our instinct is to go with Anna Kendrick, who is playing Cinderella, right now. It's perhaps a slightly lighter part than some of the others, but it has more musical numbers to play with and its fair share of heartbreak near the end of the piece. Perhaps more importantly, it's the first viable time (excluding "Pitch Perfect," which wasn't much of an Oscar movie) that Kendrick could be recognized for her musical talents, which helped her earn a Tony nod on Broadway. Like we said, any of the four above could join Streep if the film works, but Kendrick has our vote for now.
Octavia Spencer ("Get On Up")
Tate Taylor's "The Help" won Octavia Spencer a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Viola Davis a Best Actress nod (she was defeated, semi-unexpectedly, by Meryl Streep), so it's not surprising that the filmmaker has hired both actors for his follow-up, the James Brown biopic "Get On Up." The only question is which one of them has the advantage when it comes to a nomination: Davis plays the singer's mother Susie, who left when the singer was only four, so we're going to give the benefit of the doubt to Spencer, who plays Brown's Aunt Honey, who became his guardian, and worked as a madam in a brothel. It seems like there'll be plenty of character to be getting on with, and Spencer's a good match—could we see her become the female Christoph Waltz, winning a second Oscar for a film by the same director three years on?
Vanessa Redgrave ("Foxcatcher")
We tipped this performance last year, but to recap briefly: Bennett Miller's latest has multiple characters that could lead to nominations, but only one is played by a bona-fide legendary actress. Vanessa Redgrave has six nominations in the last 45 years, including a win for 1977's "Julia," but hasn't figured in since "Howards End" in 1993. Early buzz about her performance in "Coriolanus" never turned into anything, but in the Miller film, she's got a small but powerful part as the mother of Carell's schizophrenic millionaire. It could turn out to be too small to make an impact, depending on how it falls in the cutting room, but Redgrave's still a big enough name that she certainly shouldn't be discounted with material like this.
Felicity Jones ("Theory Of Everything")
Felicity Jones has been rising for a while, but 2014 might be the year she finally explodes: coming off an excellent performance in "The Invisible Woman," she'll feature in the upcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," just cropped up in "Girls," and plays a supporting role in "True Story." But her best chance at a nod definitely comes with "Theory Of Everything," James Marsh's Stephen Hawking biopic said to focus on the relationship between the scientist and his wife. And depending on how far they go, there's a lot of drama to the romance—the couple met shortly after Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease ALS and given two years to live, and he credited her for giving him something to live for. After his disability worsened, their marriage became semi-open as she began a relationship with a church organist, only for Hawking to eventually leave her for his nurse in the 1990s. It's unclear how much of the story the film will tell, but with Jones in the role, it's certain not to just be a thankless-wife part.