For those of us who absorb movies and writing thereof on a year-round basis, one of the defining stories of 2015 has to be how many of the year's best pictures were female-centric stories. It's fitting then, that in a (sadly) uncharacteristic role reversal, the category of Best Actress is far more competitive than that of Best Actor, which is comparatively lackluster. But even with a wealth of quality (which mirrors my own personal ballot quite closely), there's one name that has emerged as the bona fide frontrunner.
With the SAG, Drama Globe and Critics Choice under her belt, it seems that Brie Larson is pretty near unbeatable for her heart-wrenching performance in Room. Representing one of only two Best Picture nominees in this lineup only solidifies her chances.
Even if chief rival Saoirse Ronan can nab the BAFTA from a more UK-friendly crowd, it'll probably be too little too late. It's a shame that she didn't earn more hardware this season for her touching work in Brooklyn, but I'm optimistic her day will come.
Equally deserving of acclaim this year are Cate Blanchett's layered characterization of Carol and Charlotte Rampling's crushing portrait of marital discord in 45 Years. Both performances surely have their champions, but with zero precursors in hand beyond a smattering of critics group wins, there clearly wasn't a foothold to be had for either of them.
The fifth slot could probably have gone to Rooney Mara or Alicia Vikander had they been campaigned appropriately, but with those two dominating the Supporting Actress conversation, the default option went to Jennifer Lawrence, still the industry's it-girl. Joy is no great shakes if you ask me, but there's no denying that J-Law is a true blue movie star with screen presence to spare. With her Best Actress win only a few years old, there's little threat of a follow-up win coming so soon after.
Will win: Brie Larson, Room
Runner-up: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Should win: Brie Larson, Room
Should be nominated: Rooney Mara, Carol