Daniel: It seems like the same narrative ever year: an abundance of great, interesting role for men, and a very few for women. I’m not sure where the blame lies for this. The highest grossing movie two years running has been female-led (granted, the same female in the same series). It’s hard to even see many snubs here, with so few deserving contenders. Regardless, we’re presented with some great turns in this category, even if the winner is essentially a given at this point.
Tyler: I’m with Daniel. We have some great female actors out there, stealing shows and taking names. However, when it comes to real breakout roles that are nomination-worthy, it seems as though there are fewer candidates. That being said the women nominated here did an excellent job–I just wish there were more overall to choose from.
MARION COTILLARD, Two Days, One Night
Daniel: This is the “surprise” nomination here, but it shouldn’t be seen as that big of a surprise. The Academy has a history of nominating foreign-language performances, and this is a prime example. Cotillard, of course, is a previous winner in this category for such a performance. In Two Days, One Night, she is still as convincing as ever. The story is simple and shot with stark realism, and Cotillard’s Sandra is completely believable here. Forced out of her job after her nervous breakdown, Sandra struggles to force her way back in. She’s miserable and ashamed, but desperate. Cotillard’s subtlety and realism sells this film.
Tyler: Cotillard has always been one of those quiet favorites who doesn’t do big, in your face crazy, but subtle, slow-burning intensity. We journey with her on a desperate task: convince her co-workers to let her have her job back. It’s shamefully, painfully real, and she is brilliant each step of the way.
FELICITY JONES, The Theory of Everything
Tyler: Felicity Jones wonderfully complements Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking as Jane Hawking. While he’s physically contorting himself, she’s stalwartly by his side–until she, understandably–must move on. She doesn’t get the huge moments in the film, but what she gets, she earns and holds onto, keeping us engaged emotionally outside of Hawking, emoting the effects of what is happening to him and to his family.
Daniel: Felicity Jones is given, on paper, a fairly standard role: the neglected wife of a tortured genius. Typically, these roles are pushed to the Supporting category. In The Theory of Everything, we know we’re going to get a spectacular performance from Redmayne, but we have little expectations of Jones’ Jane Hawking. That’s what made her performance so spectacular to me. She had little to prove, and yet she committed, all in, and sold me on these hard emotions. Jane’s vulnerability was a stark contrast to the immobile, outwardly emotionless Hawking. She’s subtle. She’s intentional. I was floored by Jones’ performance out of unexpectedness, yes, but it’s a great performance on it’s own. I’m glad she’s nominated, yet she’ll be understandably be overshadowed by the more showy performance from her on-screen husband.
JULIANNE MOORE, Still Alice
Tyler: Still Alice was excellent, and Julianne Moore is the quiet, yet standalone winner for me. Even with the other good performances on this list, Moore is clearly at the forefront. Where Felicity Jones is the rock next to Redmayne’s deteriorating academic husband, Moore is both the rock and the quicksand, clasping desperately at sanity, hoping that it will remain, and preparing herself and her family for the inevitable. It was a heart-rending performance, and one that is all-too applicable to audiences today.
Daniel: Yes, one of two performances you probably haven’t heard much of is easily the frontrunner. I talked about a possible (read: probable) reason for Moore’s frontrunner status in my Oscars Primer earlier this season. Far before anyone had even seen Still Alice, Julianne Moore was the expected frontrunner. In fact, she was the frontrunner for her Cannes-winning performance in Maps to the Stars before Still Alice was a known player. The narrative, for better or worse, has been “She’s overdue.” This buzz has kept her ahead of the weak pack. While I think that’s always a stupid reason for a win, let’s talk about the actual performance. It’s, in a word, incredible. Still Alice is a gut wrenching, horrifying look at the ravages of Alzheimer’s. The movie, a simple indie-drama, nearly plays out like an emotional horror film, and Moore’s fantastic performance sells the fear, the absent-mindedness, the dread, and the loss. She may be the frontrunner because of politics and history, but the award will be well-deserved.
ROSAMUND PIKE, Gone Girl
Daniel: Anyone who says that this year was fully devoid of interesting roles for women are proven utterly wrong with this film alone. Gone Girl was a fantastically complex and dark film, with an even more twisted and intricate character in Amazing Amy Dunne. Rosamund Pike is perfectly cast in this nutso role, and executes it perfectly. To be sure, this is the most interesting character of the year. Amy keeps you guessing and wondering from beginning to end. Even when you think her hand has been tipped midway through the film, there is still far more for you to find out. Pike’s psychopathic, or at least sociopathic portrayal of Amy is often internal. Soft, subtle emotions give away her thoughts, confusing you often more than clarifying. Pike never gives you anything simple here. Gone Girl deserved far more love than it received from the Academy, but they certainly chose the most deserving nominee from the film.
Tyler: If Moore doesn’t win (which would be an utter snub), Rosamund Pike will, and it will be likewise well deserved. She is absolutely crazy, and just when you think you’ve figured out the extent of the crazy–she goes deeper. This is rare for women in film. It’s usually the guy, and in Gone Girl you kind of keep expecting it to be the men in her life, but Pike rams female psychopathy down our throats and leers at us as we struggle to digest it. She’s brutal and disturbing, but impressive.
REESE WITHERSPOON, Wild
Tyler: I enjoyed Reese Witherspoon’s performance–she gave it her all. Physically and emotionally, it was a raw film. It’s beautifully shot and as cumbersome as the journey that she goes on, but I agree with Daniel: I wanted more from the film. There are other films that precede this one which do it better, like Into the Wild or 127 Hours. I know that those are male-centric films, and I am the guy that cheers for more women at the forefront of films, especially ones that break molds. This one just did not play well for me. It was too slow and as impactful as it should have been.
Daniel: Reese Witherspoon has had an excellent year. Yes she’s the only Oscar winner of this bunch, but her career sort of hit a stand-still after her win in 2006. This year she’s received her second nomination, but she also produced Wild and Gone Girl. As she describes it, Witherspoon didn’t see enough strong roles for women and sought to change that. Clearly her work has paid off. Nevertheless, I was underwhelmed with Wild. The film missed it’s mark for me. Her performance is solid. Thoughtful, challenging, raw. While the internal battle of Cheryl Strayed came across solidly, the film didn’t move me emotionally as it intended. It had it’s moments, but simply wasn’t for me.
Daniel: Julianne Moore
Tyler: Julianne Moore
Daniel: Julianne Moore (or Rosamund Pike…both are excellent)
Tyler: Julianne Moore, resoundingly. But Pike could take it and I’d be fine with that.
Should’ve Been Here:
Daniel: Amy Adams, Big Eyes. Like I said, there aren’t any real snubs here, and I don’t feel like anyone deserved a nomination more. Most will mention Jennifer Aniston for Cake, but Adams had a better performance (and in a better movie).
Tyler: Daniel and I are pretty much of one mind on this category. Amy Adams did a great job in Big Eyes, and should have had her place with the rest on this list.