2014 Oscar Power Rankings: Best Actress

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Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Early in the game, candidates for 2014 Oscar nominations are written down in pencil. A lot can happen between now and the morning Oscar’s nominations are revealed, and the game changes often.

Cate Blanchett’s name, however, is written in pen. In permanent marker, even. The Oscar winner’s blistering performance in Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ might be the first lock of this still-nascent Oscar season. But which four actresses will join Ms. Blanchett in what promises to be a competitive field. Let’s go over the most likely contenders for Best Actress nominations at the 2014 Oscars:

  • 1

    Cate Blanchett, ‘Blue Jasmine’

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Like I said, a lock. Possibly  the frontrunner, though that’s only because everyone else in the category has yet to show their films. That changes once Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ kicks off this year’s Venice Film Festival, but at the moment, Blanchett is the category’s sole lock. As crumbling ex-socialite Jasmine, she 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’

    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’

    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

    Emma Thompson, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

    Walt Disney

    ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ feels like a bona-fide Oscar movie. It’s loaded with A-list talent. It’s a movie about making movies, which Hollywood adores. (See ‘The Artist,’ and its Oscar run.) And if it starts snatching up nominations in several major categories, then Thompson’s portrayal of ‘Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers should get swept up in the momentum.

  • 5

    Naomi Watts, ‘Diana’

    Entertainment One

    This fifth slot is tough to predict. Several actresses -- from 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.

  • 6

    Additional Contenders:

    Cinedigm

    Amy Adams, ‘American Hustle;’ Berenice Bejo, ‘The Past;’ Julie Delpy, ‘Before Midnight;’ Judi Dench, ‘Philomena;’ Nicole Kidman, ‘Grace of Monaco;’ Brie Larson, ‘Short Term 12;’ Kate Winslet, ‘Labor Day;’ Reese Witherspoon, ‘The Devil’s Knot;’ Shailene Woodley, ‘The Spectacular Now’

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