Rosamund Pike: Gone Girl
Julianne Moore: Still Alice (winner)
Felicity Jones: The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard: Two Days, One Night
Reese Witherspoon: Wild
2014 appears to be one of those years that isn’t that great for all of the awards. While I do like some of the nominations Best Actress, I don’t love all of them. The problem is that with perhaps a single exception, most of the substitutions I’d consider are either in small genre pictures or are borderline (at best) between Actress and Supporting Actress. In terms of genre films, the two in question from the world of horror are Maika Monroe in It Follows and Alex Essoe in Starry Eyes. It Follows is the better film, but Essoe gives the better and more committed performance of the two. Elisabeth Moss is very good in The One I Love, but it seems that not many people saw that movie. Saoirse Ronan is almost certainly supporting in The Grand Budapest Hotel. No, the one I’d most want to add is Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina, whose absence here makes absolutely no sense to me.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I said above that I like some of the nominations, which implies that I don’t like all of them. That would be accurate. I don’t love the nomination for Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything for several reasons. The main one is that I barely remember her in the film. Every part of that movie is dominated by Eddie Redmayne, and I can barely remember that Felicity Jones was even on screen most of the time. When you realize that Alicia Vikander’s performance was ignored, Jones’s nomination becomes more infuriating.
4. I try very hard not to let my opinion of a character get in the way of my opinion of a performance, but there are times when that’s pretty hard. That’s certainly the case with Wild and Reese Witherspoon. Since I really, really dislike the character, I admit to struggling to find anything much to like about the performance as well. This character is self-important and kind of awful, and nothing will change my mind on that score. That Reese Witherspoon didn’t do anything that special doesn’t help her case.
3. I’m putting Marion Cotillard in third place along with Two Days, One Night. It’s worth saying that this is the first of the nominations I don’t hate. It’s a good role, and Cotillard is a good enough actress that she’s going to handle it well. In truth, the only real issue I take with it is that I like the other nominations better. Cotillard plays the part well (no surprises there), but simply doesn’t quite stand up to the other two nominations. Good, even great, but not worthy of a little golden man.
2. I think it sounds rude to say that Julianne Moore won this Oscar for Still Alice because, as with Leonardo DiCaprio the following year everyone thought it was her turn to win. There was a pretty big push for Moore, the consensus being that she had more than earned an Oscar in the past and never won, so the next moderately close to being worthy performance is the one that should get her there. I see that, even if I disagree. Still Alice is a very good film with solid performances from everyone involved, especially Moore, but it’s not the best performance of its year.
1. I think Rosemund Pike was robbed for her amazingly cold-blooded performance in Gone Girl. This is a film where I like the parts much better than I like the whole, and Pike, virtually absent from the first half, dominates the second half of the film completely. It is a performance that is equal parts contempt, cunning, fear, and excitement. It’s difficult to express how terrible a character Rosamund Pike plays and how perfectly she plays her. It’s a master class on acting, and she deserved to be rewarded for it.