The Nominees Are:
- Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
- Laura Dern, Wild
- Kiera Knightley, The Imitation Game
- Emma Stone, Birdman
- Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
When reviews single you out as the emotional core of the movie of the year, Oscar heat normally comes with you. That Patricia Arquette has managed to steam roll this season is as much attributed to the movie’s success and her luminous performance. She plays one the Academy’s favorite type of roles in this category, but there’s nothing gimmicky or showy in how Arquette plays this part. She’s so naturalistic in her acting choices and the performance is so fluid in moving with the story, that when the big moments arrive they leave you with an immense impact that’s hard to shake.
Equation to the Nomination: Once in a lifetime part (12 years of acting and aging in one film!) + suffering mother + Best Picture frontrunner heat + “I just thought there would be more.”
Laura Dern, Wild
Of all of the names announced on Oscar nomination morning, Laura Dern’s might count as the biggest surprise. Absent from much of the precursors, she finds herself with an Oscar nomination for the role as the Cheryl Strayad’s mother, who deals with a rebelious daughter and issues of her own. Much of the power in Laura’s performance is drawn from an earth mother type quality and she does get to deliver one of the film’s biggest lessons. The performance is also free of vanity and you get just enough glimpses of the woman she could have become or wants to be before tragedy strikes.
Equation to the Nomination: Beloved working actor + family ties to Oscar + coattails of the big co-star + long suffering mother + heart and soul of the film.
Kiera Knightley, The Imitation Game
Knightley seems to have always been in or near the nomination discussion since landing one in 2005, but each time it has fizzled out. She finally finds herself back in the nominee circle with her performance in The Imitation Game. The only performance of the five I have not seen makes it hard to speak to the quality of her role, but being the main female character in a movie centered around men definitely helps her stand out, as does the character’s relationship with Alan Turing provided some humanity.
Equation to the Nomination: Best Picture heat + girl in a boy’s club + near misses before + Begin Again.
Emma Stone, Birdman
This nomination seems like it was only a matter of time before it happened. With Birdman, she gets a part that shows off her wicked comedy sense and emotional vulnerability. She’s almost certainly here because of her titanic monologue during a tense face off with Michael Keaton’s character that really lets her teeth sink into the material. Stone is also gifted enough to show the character’s complete arc and sizzles with any actor she’s paired with.
Equation to the Nomination: Best Picture heat + an epic monologue + it’s about time-ness + upward career trajectory.
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Much has been said, and will continue to be said, about Meryl Streep. With Into the Woods, she gets to once again sing but unlike with Mamma Mia, she has a script and role to back up the voice this time. As the Witch, she gets many of the musicals most famous numbers and for the most part, manages to do them justice. It’s a showy part in many ways, but Meryl manages to find the nuance needed to land both the comedic and serious bits.
Equation to the Nomination: The Legend that is Meryl + deglam, then glam, then a puddle of tar (so deglam again?) + Long suffering…mother??? + the best role in a hit musical
Will/Should Win: Patricia Arquette
Could Win: Emma Stone (only if they go Birdman crazy)
Should Have Been Nominated: Teyonah Parris from Dear White People or Carrie Coon from Gone Girl