Read Robbie Collin's in full
Laura Dern (Wild)
Laura Dern in a scene from Wild
What we said: "At 38, [Reece Witherspoon] is really a little too old for the role [of Cheryl Strayed], and it's a bit of a stretch to believe Laura Dern (age 47) as her mother, Bobbi – they feel more like sisters. Then again, they did relate as equals: Bobbi enrolled simultaneously for adult education at Cheryl's school. The closeness of their bond was what threw Cheryl into a tailspin in her early twenties, when Bobbi was diagnosed with cancer, and, with shocking speed, succumbed."
Read Tim Robey's in full
Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game
What we said: "Knightley plays this tairibly posh bluestocking [Joan Clarke] with amusingly clipped vowels and a welcome touch of camp: the film, like Turing, grows to need her."
Emma Stone in Birdman
What we said: "There’s a scene in which Riggan’s fresh-from-rehab daughter (a superb Emma Stone) punctures her father’s pretensions with a monologue that’s delivered like a knitting needle to the gut. But while the words are furious, it’s the involuntary wince of sadness that flashes across her features in the silence that follows that makes us feel their point."
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Meryl Streep in Into the Woods
What we said: "Streep has played more than her fair share of witches since taking on the mantle of the venom-tipped magazine editor in The Devil Wears Prada. But as she was in that film, she’s upstaged here by [Emily] Blunt."
Read Robbie Collin's review in full
Will win: Patricia Arquette
Should win: Patricia Arquette
In a year of tremendous supporting actress performances, why do three of the Academy’s five chosen nominees feel so makeweight? It’s hard to get excited about the presence in this category of Keira Knightley and Laura Dern, who have both nominated for what feels by their standards like minor work. And then there’s three-time winner and 19-time nominee Meryl Streep, who’s not even the best supporting actress in Into the Woods (that would be Anna Kendrick), but could probably get on the shortlist at this point for voicing a Smurf.
More than any of these, I’d have loved to see some recognition for Carmen Ejogo in Selma, Katherine Waterston in Inherent Vice, Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl, Kristen Stewart in Still Alice, Blunt in Into the Woods – or Edge of Tomorrow, for that matter – but if we were to play Fantasy Oscars, we’d be here all night.
So let’s instead skip to the good ones. In Birdman’s busy ensemble cast, Emma Stone is a stand-out as Sam, the hot-headed, flame-tongued daughter of Michael Keaton’s actor on the verge of a comeback, who delivers a monologue about the importance of popularity over prestige in the age of the internet that’s ready made for Oscar clip reels. But it’s Patricia Arquette who seems unassailable in this category: as the mother in Boyhood, she give a shaded, human, and completely emotionally alive performance that serves as the beating heart of the film. To develop this kind of character over the course of making a normal film would be special enough; to have done it over 12 years feels like a miracle.