While Best Supporting Actor still remains a mystery past Simmons and Norton (having now seen Foxcatcher, I'm not so certain of Ruffalo's place among the final five. But he could still get in due to a lack of competition), Best Supporting Actress is definitely starting to take shape a little more firmly. And unlike Best Actress which seems to also have fewer viable options, this category has about 8 actresses that could all conceivably find themselves with nominations. It has always been a category to welcome newer, younger actresses (see last year's Lupita Nyong'o) alongside more seasoned actresses and this year's contenders are no different. There are some actresses looking for their first nominations and it wouldn't be the Oscars without Meryl Streep looking for a nom...
But the biggest breakout story of the year may just be an actress that has already been working for more than 25 years and in a film that was 11 years in the making. Most of the praise for Linklater's decade-spanning film has focused on Patricia Arquette's nurturing and grounded performance as Olivia, the mother of two children. The film may be called Boyhood but it's as just much about her own growth and maturity from a young, single mother trying to raise children while finishing her degree, to become a woman that has lived through hard times (her choice in men is a little questionable) and come out wiser for it all. It's even more fascinating watching Arquette age onscreen as we begin to see the progression of an actress coming into her own as a woman. And her speech towards the end of the film is perhaps the film's most poignant moment. There had been debate early in the summer about which category to place her in, but in Supporting she is guaranteed a nomination and even a possible win.
That Jessica Chastain is mentioned again for Oscar consideration is no surprise, she's been nominated twice before (Best Supporting Actress for 2011's The Help and Best Actress for 2012's Zero Dark Thirty). Nor is it a surprise that the actress will once again be competing with herself for a nomination from multiple performances in the same year. Her breakthrough year in 2011 consisted of 5 different films (I still say her best work that year was in Take Shelter) and this year, again, she has work in 4 different films to contend, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie (which is receiving a week-qualifying run), Interstellar, and the film that is most likely to bring about a nomination, A Most Violent Year. There's been controversy about the fact that Chastain has been prohibited from campaigning for J.C. Chandor's 80s-set film until December, due to her contract for Nolan's Interstellar, but it is really the only performance that has an actual chance to bring her another nomination and the publicity just may help her in scoring the nomination for Chandor's film. The Academy seems to be a fan or her work. It seems like a safe bet to see her name among the 5 nominees.
Even though Keira Knightley has been nominated once before for an Oscar (Best Actress for 2005's Pride and Prejudice), I was beginning to think the Academy wasn't quite as enamored with her work as I thought, after passing over her Oscar-worthy performances in A Dangerous Method and Anna Karenina. But it seems that she may once again be in their favor again this year for her work in The Imitation Game. Knightley is having a fantastic year as well with her amazing work in the musical Begin Again (which should hopefully bring her a Golden Globe nomination) and her strong comedic performance in the indie comedy Laggies. Her work in both will be a strong case to bring her one of those nominations that represents a good year for an actor. And the Oscar-bait, period-set, biopic about the man that cracked the Enigma code to defeat the Germans in WWII, seems like just the sort of film the Academy gravitates toward. It seems like a reasonable assumption that Knightley, as the only woman in the film apart of the code breaking team, will finally score her second nomination this year.
Since her Golden Globe-nominated breakout in 2010's Easy A, Emma Stone has been a big, young star. The Academy, always quick to acknowledge stars of the moment, seems to recognize when it's someone's "time" and right now seems right for Stone for her work in Birdman, a film that has the potential to score multiple nominations. In my Year In Advance predictions, I assumed that a nomination would be coming her way this year. I just got the category and film wrong. Her work in Birdman is strong (I've previously written about it over at The Film Experience) and her first nomination seems like a done deal.
There are a couple of actresses looking to fill that final 5th spot. Laura Dern hasn't received a nomination since her Best Actress nomination for Rambling Rose over 20 years ago and she's a strong competitor for her role in Wild. And her appearance in the successful The Fault in Our Stars this summer could also booster her visibility. The late-breaking Martin Luther King, Jr film Selma just showed this past week at the AFI Festival and its performance from Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King could be a threat to break into the race. But I think the last nomination will come from a film that still hasn't been seen but has had Oscar buzz surrounding it before cameras even starting rolling, the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale musical Into the Woods. Oscar-nominee Anna Kendrick as Cinderella (in an actual supporting role) could find her way here, but you can never bet against Oscar's favorite actress Meryl Streep. In what would be her 19th nomination, Streep is a reliable mainstay and her role as the Witch (which at one point was considered lead, but moved to supporting), previously played by Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams, and Donna Murphy on stage, has always been a favorite from the show. To not include Streep among the eventual Oscar nominees, even sit unseen, seems like a mistake.
Patricia Arquette Boyhood
Jessica Chastain A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley The Imitation Game
Emma Stone Birdman
Meryl Streep Into the Woods
My Favorite Best Supporting Actress Performances (I've what I've seen so far)
Julianne Moore Maps to the Stars
Rene Russo Nightcrawler
Tilda Swinton Snowpiercer
Uma Thurman Nymphomaniac Vol I
Marisa Tomei Love Is Strange