No more Felicity Jones (allegedly) in this category it seems which helps Patricia Arquette and the “Into the Woods” ladies. There are still a number of “X” factors on the horizon.
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. Meryl Streep
Into the Woods
FOR HER: It's a meaty role and there's no denying that Oscar will write Meryl's name down for anything. Disney is preparing a very big campaign.
AGAINST HER: They do take Meryl breaks from time to time.
3. 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. She has the role and the feisty persona that Oscar loves.
AGAINST HER: Too many films can be overkill or cause a vote split.
4. Emma Stone
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.
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. Katherine Waterston
FOR HER: Daughter of veteran actor Sam Waterston, early word is that she's a standout in Paul Thomas Anderson's film. If they love it, Oscar would love to welcome a new face.
AGAINST HER: She does have internal competition and there's no telling if AMPAS will respond to it.
7. 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?
8. 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.
9. Jessica Chastain
FOR HER: Stellar year and there are rumors starting to circle that this is a winning performance.
AGAINST HER: A winning performance in a science fiction film? I'll believe it when I see it. That doesn't stop a nomination from occurring though.
10. Imelda Staunton
FOR HER: Previous nominee for "Vera Drake" and has been in need of another role that people notice. She seems to have found it here.
AGAINST HER: Will enough people see the film?
OTHER TOP-TIER CONTENDERS
11. Naomi Watts
Russian, pregnant, prostitute. Everything Oscar can love.
12. Jessica Lange
Trust me, if she shows any semblance of her old Oscar self, they will leap at the opportunity to get this recent Emmy-winner (and two-time Oscar winner) to the ceremony.
13. Rene Russo
People may not remember how awesome she was in the 90's with films like "Lethal Weapon 3" and "Ransom." Many praised her turn out of TIFF. If Jake Gyllenhaal starts contending in a big way, she can easily come in for the ride (possibly even without him).
14. Suzanne Clément
This Foreign film could make some noise. Call this a wildcard choice.
15. Vanessa Redgrave
Veteran actress who still is delivering stellar work. Word is she's pretty great in this.
16. Kristen Stewart
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?
17. Melissa McCarthy
The word out of TIFF was very positive for her. Previous Oscar nominee for "Bridesmaids" that may just ride the wave back in. The "Tammy" reviews may detract some.
18. Carrie Coon
Plays Affleck's twin sister. Could be a role that gets pulled in if the film is a hit with the Academy.
19. Kristen Stewart
Who would think we'd see her name in contention so many times this year, this soon?
20. Viola Davis
Get on Up
Even the vocal detractors praised her brief performance. Universal Pictures still believes in this one to happen in several categories.
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.