Oscars Categories 2015

The 2015 Oscars Best Actress Category Is Stacked

Photo: Courtesy of TIFF

You can count on every Oscar season to have an awfully competitive race for Best Actor, but this year, the real action is with the women. Finally, we’ve got a wealth of contenders who are not just deserving, but feasible nominees, too, including actresses like Lily Tomlin (Grandma), Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), and Blythe Danner (I’ll See You In My Dreams), with highly anticipated performances from Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) and Angelina Jolie (By the Sea) yet to come. Those five actresses alone would make for a pretty potent category, but here are five other performances — all of which have screened at the Toronto Film Festival to great acclaim — that could easily score nominations, too:

Brie Larson, Room
At an IMDb-hosted dinner earlier this week in Toronto, Brie Larson claimed that IMDb is the only reason people would know who she is, given her “Who’s that girl?” roles in projects like The Spectacular Now, Short Term 12, and 21 Jump Street. Well, after Room comes out, far fewer people will need reminding. Larson is terrific in it, as a long-kidnapped young woman who must raise her 5-year-old son in captivity while plotting their escape. What's particularly impressive about the 25-year-old actress’s work in Room is that she doesn’t treat her character like a saint: Despite the fact that she’s acting opposite one of the most adorable child actors ever conceived, the stunning Jacob Tremblay, Larson gets believably frustrated and even flinty with the boy in a way that any mother will immediately find relatable. And while we only get as much backstory here as the little boy is able to learn, there’s an additional lifetime of information to be gleaned by the feelings that flicker on Larson’s face.

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Could the older-skewing 45 Years come on strong with Oscar? I was knocked out by the film, which premiered back at the Berlin Film Festival and has been popping up on the fest circuit on its way to Toronto, where I keep running into people who tell me it’s their favorite. Directed by Andrew Haigh (Weekend), it follows long-married Brits Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as they prepare for their 45th anniversary. Rampling is warm and loving at the start, but as she learns about her husband’s feelings for an old flame, doubt seeps into her bones, and soon she’s questioning everything. The 69-year-old star has never been Oscar-nominated before, but this is a real showcase role for her, and I suspect the movie itself could find traction, too — it’s reminiscent of Amour, which was nominated for five categories, including Best Picture. There are a lot of ingenues in the running this year, and Rampling may have to fight for her spot against other older actresses like Danner and Tomlin, but I believe her 45 Years performance, exquisitely calibrated down to the most subtle hand-flutter, is the absolute best of that bunch.

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Twenty-six-year-old Swede Alicia Vikander has come on strong this year, thanks to roles in Ex Machina, Testament of Youth, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and in the transgender drama The Danish Girl, she nearly steals the movie away from her Oscar-winning co-star Eddie Redmayne. They play husband-and-wife painters Einar and Gerda Wegener, whose bohemian 1920s marriage is tested as Einar begins to present as a woman and pursues one of the first gender-reassignment surgeries ever attempted. Unlike Redmayne, whose freckled nose and trout pout give him one of the most distinctive faces in the business, Vikander has a more mutable, subtle visage that she leverages like the similarly stoic Jennifer Lawrence: Whenever an emotion lights up Vikander’s placid face, it's like she allowed something to escape. Vikander is the one that you want to watch, and when you couple that physical charisma with her striking, husky voice — which she effectively uses to dominate every scene with Redmayne — a star is born.

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