People are always moaning about this being a weak category. Every year it seems. I don't know about you, but I had a hard time deciding who to leave off this ballot. There are just as many worthy contenders missing the cut here as there are in the Best Actor race.
I'd love to shine my light on more of the under-recognized actresses of 2014, but these five (a handful of them already Oscar-nominated) were tops for me. Herewith, my Best Actress nominees:
The film's neorealist style might have become a slog if the cameras were focused on anyone besides Cotillard, whose natural talent is more than enough to hold our gaze. She paints an aching portrait of a woman drowning in depression, forced to swallow a little bit more of her pride and self-esteem with every anxiety med she pops.
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY in Begin Again
Knightley's effortless naturalism makes it easy to overlook just how involved this performance really is. Her relaxed singing is not only quite pleasant to listen to, but is always informed by her character's feeling, from heartbreak to jubilation. She's unshowy and nuanced, and one of this movie's biggest charms.
JULIANNE MOORE in Still Alice
Moore seems bound for Oscar glory with this heartbreaking portrayal of a woman slowly losing everything she values about herself to early onset Alzheimer's. She elevates a film that barely qualifies as mediocre by miraculously communicating emotion through a character who is increasingly losing her ability to communicate.
JENNY SLATE in Obvious Child
Dying is easy, but comedy is hard. Slate's warmly acerbic yet emotionally astute portrayal of young comic being pushed painfully into adulthood goes to show that laughter is another form of crying. The spectrum of human feeling that she's able to communicate through her comedic crudity makes for a marvelous and relatable character.
REESE WITHERSPOON in Wild
Witherspoon movingly evokes the evolving brittleness and disenchantment of Cheryl's character at various stages of her life. While she plays Cheryl with an earthy, sardonic sense of humour that keeps the tone from ever becoming too heavy, she never lets us forget the inner child that's wailing in anguish within her.
ESSIE DAVIS in The Babadook
FELICITY JONES in The Theory of Everything
GUGU MBATHA-RAW in Beyond the Lights
ROSAMUND PIKE in Gone Girl
HILARY SWANK in The Homesman