Besides Lead Actor, this is a race to keep your eye on. Lots of young ones, hot and talented, paired up with veteran actresses. Any of the Top 12 can make a case. I’m making it with a firm hand on Patricia Arquette, Felicity Jones (if she’s campaigned Supporting), and Emma Stone. The others will duke it out all season long.
AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE
1. Patricia Arquette
FOR HER: She takes on much of the emotion of the film on herself. She could be a great representation for the film.
AGAINST HER: The film is smaller and rather ambitious and the Academy has been known to ignore those types of films unfortunately. The campaign will be key.
2. Felicity Jones
The Theory of Everything
FOR HER: With roles in "Like Crazy" and "The Invisible Woman," Jones has shown that she is an incredible talent. With a co-lead role, supporting may offer an opportunity to gain recognition.
AGAINST HER: If she is a co-lead, that doesn't mean Oscar will buy it. Look at Scarlett Johansson in "Lost in Translation."
3. Emma Stone
Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
FOR HER: The film looks like an interesting mix of drama and weirdness. With the Cameron Crowe film out of the picture, is this her chance?
AGAINST HER: Naomi Watts, if she's a standout.
4. Emily Blunt
Into the Woods
FOR HER: With performances like "The Devil Wears Prada," "The Young Victoria," and "Looper" under her belt, it's surprising this hasn't happened yet. A lead-ish role in supporting could do the trick.
AGAINST HER: Will they buy the campaign? The role was nominated Lead at the Tonys.
5. Carmen Ejogo
FOR HER: Playing Coretta Scott King is a massive opportunity for attention. The supportive wife is an Academy favorite.
AGAINST HER: How big will the role be? Will the Academy go for the film?Just lots of questions with no answers yet.
THE NEXT FIVE CONTENDERS
6. Keira Knightley
The Imitation Game
FOR HER: Is in quite a bit of films this year. This Weinstein film could be her ticket to nomination #2.
AGAINST HER: Too many films can be overkill or cause a vote split.
7. Anna Kendrick
Into the Woods
FOR HER: Previous nominee for "Up in the Air" and continues to consistently deliver in blockbusters like "Pitch Perfect." This could be a winning ticket for her based on the role.
AGAINST HER: Internal competition, namely Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt who could both swing in this category.
8. Jessica Chastain
A Most Violent Year
FOR HER: Another interesting role that Chastain may be able to sink her teeth into (based on the rumors). It looks to be her year again.
AGAINST HER: Too many roles, especially if they're all good, will leave the Academy confused on a choice.
9. Jennifer Garner
Men, Women, & Children
FOR HER: People who have read the book say she has a substantial part. Reitman gets some great work out of his actresses.
AGAINST HER: Internal competition.
10. Laura Dern
FOR HER: Previous nominee that continues to deliver in smaller roles. The word from Telluride was good for her, some saying she was the best part. Also has "The Fault in our Stars" to help.
AGAINST HER: How well will the film do?
OTHER TOP-TIER CONTENDERS
11. Katherine Waterston
Early word is positive for her of the ladies in the film.
12. Vanessa Redgrave
Veteran actress who still is delivering stellar work. Word is she's pretty great in this.
13. Rosemarie DeWitt
Men, Women, & Children
She was very heavy in the trailer. Readers of the book say if there is a "lead" then she is it.
14. Imelda Staunton
The near winner for "Vera Drake" is back and said to be the standout in this comedy.
15. Shohreh Aghdashloo
The "repeat" by the magazine that went back in time had voters choose her over Renee Zellweger. That has nothing to do with this but there's some respect for her out there still.
16. Jane Fonda
This is Where I Leave You
This Oscar-winner doing something funny and sexy. The old men could be drooling.
17. Kristen Stewart
The Clouds of Sils Maria
The Cannes reception was good and she's proven herself before in films like "Into the Wild." Is she putting her stardom to good use?
18. Suzanne Clément
This Foreign film could make some noise. Call this a wildcard.
19. Anne Hathaway
Cause somebody has to breakthrough in supporting. Could be her.
20. Carrie Coon
Plays Affleck's twin sister. Could be a role that gets pulled in if the film is a hit with the Academy.
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.