Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night”
Role: Sandra, a fired factory worker trying to regain her job.
In her favor: Her troubled character dominates virtually every scene. And the past Oscar winner (for “La Vie en Rose”) was also superb in “The Immigrant” earlier this year.
Then again: The film is repetitive, as she tries to persuade a dozen colleagues to sacrifice their bonuses to restore her job. She was ignored by the Golden Globes, SAG and BAFTA.
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Role: Stephen Hawking’s starry-eyed first wife, Jane.
In her favor: She plays a romantic, optimistic young bride with infinite care for Hawking’s heart, works, brain and life. Her performance makes her seem like a good match for a brilliant mind. (G/S/B)
Then again: Endearing as she is, it’s Redmayne’s picture. In scenes they don’t share, we can’t wait for him to reappear.
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Role: Alice Howland, a linguistics professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
In her favor: Playing someone with a serious illness is pure awards bait. She’s a four-time Oscar nominee but never won. (G/S/B; Globe winner)
Then again: Her inexhaustible appetite for small indies may weaken her appeal. Reward an actor who keeps Hollywood at arm’s length? That’s a dilemma.
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Role: Amy Elliott, the titular “Gone Girl” of this disappeared-wife mystery.
In her favor: As her parents’ books say, she’s “Amazing Amy” — a smart, charismatic, dangerous, manipulative, razor- sharp sociopath. Pike’s gallows humor is bloody murder. (G/S/B)
Then again: Older voters may not favor David Fincher’s cold, slick black comedy. Nor violent dismemberment, graphic obscenity and sex scenes.
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Role: Cheryl Strayed, a sexy, druggie divorcee regaining her footing on an epic hike.
In her favor: Director Jean-Marc Vallée steered Matthew McConaughey to an Oscar in last year’s “Dallas Buyers Club.” Witherspoon is compelling whether playing Strayed in her teens or late 20s. Wild nude scenes! (G/S/B)
Then again: She has won before. Moore hasn’t. Fair’s fair.
Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”
Role: Margaret Keane, whose portraits of giant-eyed children sold millions in the 1960s.
In her favor: She’s heart-wrenching as a character without much courage or toughness in a bad marriage. Viewers care about what happens to her. (G/B; Globe winner)
Then again: It’s a minor film by Tim Burton. SAG ignored the performance.