2014 Oscar Power Rankings: Best Actress (Sept. 3)

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Warner Bros.

The 2014 Oscar race shifted over the Labor Day weekend, as serious contenders ‘Gravity,’ ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Prisoners’ and ‘Labor Day’ screened in Venice and at Telluride, generating valuable awards buzz.

We recently launched our 2014 Oscar Power Rankings, and will continue to update them weekly. Here’s where things stand after two major film festivals, and prior to this week’s Toronto International Film Festival … where the race is bound to shift again. And click here for our previous predictions in this category:

  • 1

    Cate Blanchett, ‘Blue Jasmine’

    Last Week: 1
    Sony Pictures Classics

    A lock. The frontrunner, though that’s only because most everyone else in the category has yet to show their films. As crumbling ex-socialite Jasmine, Blanchett gives the finest performance we’ve seen from a Woody Allen performance in years (and possibly ever). The final scene, of Jasmine on a park bench, continues to haunt. Blanchett will be there on Oscar night for ‘Blue Jasmine.’

  • 2

    Sandra Bullock, ‘Gravity’

    Last Week: 2
    Warner Bros.

    ‘Gravity,’ on paper, seems to boil down to Bullock’s performance … primarily because we don’t yet know where Cuaron is going to take his action in the movie’s second half. We know that Bullock plays an astronaut who is knocked free from her satellite and drifts off into space. It sounds like the bulk of the movie will fall on the former ‘Miss Congeniality,’ and if she comes up with something brilliant, it should earn her another Best Actress nomination. We’ll know more on ‘Gravity’ in the coming days, but I fully expect Bullock to stay on these charts for the time being.

  • 3

    Julia Roberts, ‘August: Osage County’

    Last Week: 3
    The Weinstein Company

    John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play is an awards mystery at the moment. Multiple parts in the meaty family drama seem poised for Oscar’s affections. But we don’t know if Roberts or co-star Meryl Streep will emerge as the “Big Story” from the film – and we’re not sure if Streep is running in Actress of Best Supporting Actress yet. For now, I’m putting Roberts down as a contender, but she might be competing with her co-star, if ‘August’ is as good as advertised. (Or she might be removed completely if the movie misses its mark.)

  • 4

    Judi Dench, ‘Philomena’

    Last Week: --
    Weinstein/BBC

    While several eyes were on Telluride, Stephen Frears’ ‘Philomena’ took Venice by storm, putting Dame Judi Dench on the Oscar map.  The movie’s being labeled as obvious Oscar-bait, with Dench playing a mother trying to locate the child who was taken away from her years earlier. It’s based on a true story, and it’s labeled as a crowd-pleaser by journos who covered the film’s world premiere. Frears helmed ‘The Queen,’ which powered Helen Mirren to her Best Actress win. Could he do the same with Dench this year?

  • 5

    Naomi Watts, ‘Diana’

    Last Week: 5
    Entertainment One

    This fifth slot is tough to predict. Several actresses -- from Emma Thompson and Watts to Nicole Kidman – are playing actual people, which often helps an Oscar campaign. And Kidman’s playing Hollywood royalty in Grace Kelly. But Watts is embodying ACTUAL royalty, and if she’s convincing as Princess Diana in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s upcoming biopic, then I think she gets into the race. The fact that Entertainment One recently bumped up to a Nov. 1 release date implies that they have confidence in their film’s awards chances, so for now, Watts gets my fifth Best Actress slot.

Dropped from rankings: Emma Thompson, 'Saving Mr. Banks'

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