The tides can shift very suddenly. And it did earlier on Thursday September 11 with Sony Pictures Classics taking on “Still Alice” and Julianne Moore who received stellar notices out of the Toronto Film Festival. Felicity Jones is a definite contender but there is still no official word if she’s indeed going LEAD, and we still have to await the coming of Rosamund Pike, Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, and maybe one or two more surprises. This category is starting to thicken up.
AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE
1. Julianne Moore
FOR HER: Sony Pictures has picked up this gem from Toronto that received unanimous praise for Moore. After "Map to the Stars" got pushed back, are they in the mood to reward this veteran?
AGAINST HER: We've been down this road with her before. If they don't see it, they can't vote for it.
2. Felicity Jones
The Theory of Everything
FOR HER: Our hot new actress of the year that delivers a stunning performance. Focus Features backing. British vote will likely go for it.
AGAINST HER: She could go supporting. Will they buy that?
3. Rosamund Pike
FOR HER: Readers of the book says she is a fantastic character. They also say she will be the make or break of the film.
AGAINST HER: There's still a chance she could swing supporting. Thrillers are tough sells in acting categories.
4. Reese Witherspoon
FOR HER: She's been attempting a comeback for some time and teamed up with Jean-Marc Vallee could finally welcome her back to the club.
AGAINST HER: We've been down this road with her before and we're always let down. I'll wait for reviews.
5. Amy Adams
FOR HER: She scored her fifth nomination last year for "American Hustle" and many were championing an upset for her, making many aware that she is still Oscar-less. I think it may be time.
AGAINST HER: There will be a lot of ladies trying to build the overdue narrative this year. She will be one of a few. It's all about who they go for.
THE NEXT FIVE CONTENDERS
6. Meryl Streep
Into the Woods
FOR HER: The Queen of Oscar continues to get juicy roles and be nominated even when critics aren't fully on her side. This is another opportunity to add to her arsenal.
AGAINST HER: They take Meryl breaks every now and again.
7. Jessica Chastain
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
FOR HER: After losing momentum due to controversy surrounding "Zero Dark Thirty," Chastain has another huge year ahead of her, all potentially offering Oscar prospects. The Cannes noise for this performance was deafening.
AGAINST HER: Vote split with herself.
8. Hilary Swank
FOR HER: Has two Oscars. Great reviews from Cannes. Many say that the role is tailor-made for her. Is it her big comeback?
AGAINST HER: The reviews were good but some were muted. Others suggested that some won't get it.
9. Anne Dorval
FOR HER: This Cannes winner received great notices for Dorval. An unknown foreign performer can often make noise.
AGAINST HER: No release date set yet. Could sit this one out. Also, it's a foreign performance. Let's be serious when it comes to Oscar.
10. Marion Cotillard
Two Days, One Night
FOR HER: It's been far too long since Cotillard has been out of the race. This received great praise at Cannes..
AGAINST HER: We've been down this road before with her. She also has "The Immigrant."
OTHER TOP-TIER CONTENDERS
11. Scarlett Johansson
Under the Skin
FOR HER: Has made a big comeback in terms of respect and prestige films over the past year. With a seemingly open and weaker Best Actress year ahead, this "weirder" choice could make some noise.
AGAINST HER: The film has come and gone in terms of theaters and is already on DVD. They're not kind to sci-fi, especially THIS kind.
12. Anne Hathaway
FOR HER: One year after Sandra Bullock nearly won, is there room for Hathaway to make some headway in a science fiction film?
AGAINST HER: Could be all about the visuals.
13. Helen Mirren
The Hundred Foot Journey
Reviews were decent for her. Will they remember this summer release?
14. Maggie Smith
My Old Lady
Barely missed the cut for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and continues to deliver good work.
15. Marion Cotillard
She's the best part of the film. If "Two Days, One Night" is not accessible or enticing for voters, she could sneak in.
16. Shailene Woodley
The Fault in Our Stars
Benefiting from a weaker competition. Fanboys and girls will be screaming for this one.
17. Mia Wasikowska
Is her time coming? She seems to be going for it.
18. Jessica Chastain
Trailer looked good and she has a stacked year ahead. Something's got to give, right?
19. Kirsten Dunst
The Two Faces of January
I THOROUGHLY believe she was very close for "Melancholia." Will it ever be her time?
20. Robin Wright
It's the performance of her career. A terrific and unique turn that stands out. Will they go for this type of performance that's half animated? Sadly, I think not.
Clayton Davis started to write professionally in his sophomore year of college when Johnny Alba, the editor and owner of the old Oscar prediction site, The Oscar Igloo, had an opening for staff writers. Clayton wrote for The Igloo for nearly four years before being appointed editor and revamping and renaming The Oscar Igloo into the now popular mega-site, The Awards Circuit. Since then, Clayton has become a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to awards season show, The Critics Choice Awards. Most recently, Clayton is a now an active member of the International Press Academy, which hosts the popular Satellite Awards as well as the newly integrated Broadcast Television Journalists Association, which hosts the Critics Choice Television Awards. In June 2014 he became the year's first accepted member to New York Film Critics Online. He has been quoted in various outlets (CNN.com, Bloomberg.com, TheWrap.com, AceShowbiz.com, SlashFilm.com, ScottFeinberg.com) and continues to raise the bar for film-talking enthusiasts around the globe.