By Leslie Simon
The 87th annual Academy Awards are less than a week away, which means it’s time to start cramming for the Oscar pool you’ve got going with your family, friends and/or coworkers.
Felicity Jones, The Theory Of Everything
Back in 2011, Felicity Jones first serenaded audiences with her breakthrough performance in the romantic drama Like Crazy, where she played a British exchange student who falls in love with an American classmate (Anton Yelchin) and the couple is forced to carry on a heart-wrenching, cross-Atlantic love affair. Since that role, Jones has starred in a handful of period pieces (The Invisible Woman) and indie films (Cheerful Weather for the Wedding). However, it’s her turn as Jane Wilde Hawking—the accomplished and inspired first wife of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking—in The Theory Of Everything (the only film on this list also currently nominated for Best Picture) that’s allowing Jones to make a swift move from ingénue to leading lady.
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
At first glance, Marion Cotillard’s performance in the foreign drama Two Days, One Night, might be somewhat of an unexpected choice for the Academy. After all, a lot of Hollywood insiders were betting on Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Amy Adams (Big Eyes) or Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond The Lights) to round out the Best Actress category. However, this French/Italian/Belgian film—and, more specifically, Cotillard’s depiction of a factory worker desperate to keep her job and support her family—has held strong this entire awards season as a critical darling. Translation: This could be Cotillard’s year.
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
If Reese Witherspoon walks away with this award, she’ll have a nice and shiny set of Oscar bookends to display on her mantle (she won the Best Actress award in 2006 for her role as June Carter Cash in Walk The Line). In the movie Wild, which is based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name, Witherspoon plays a woman (Strayed) who decides to hike more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to heal from her recent divorce, the death of her mother and many, many years of self-destructive behavior. While it’s always entertaining to watch Witherspoon disappear inside imaginary characters, it’s her portrayal of real people where she seems to shine brightest.