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Supporting actress.

Patricia Arquette

'BOYHOOD'

Always admired but never before in the Oscar derby, she's now a frontrunner as the single "Boyhood" protagonist most actively working to repair her life. Over 12 years she has had more downs than ups but she always pops up swinging.

Jessica Chastain

'A MOST VIOLENT YEAR'

They said of Astaire and Rogers, "He gives her class and she gives him sex." Chastain's loyal wife gives her mogul husband both, plus a hint of sadness for the part of his success quest she can't reach. A turn suitably layered for recognition.

Laura Dern

'WILD'

The heart can't help breaking when a feckless, free-spirited mama, faced with a death sentence, bewilderedly confesses, "I've never been in the driver's seat of my own life." Dern casts an indelible impact on her screen kids, even more so on the movie.

Carmen Ejogo

'SELMA'

Playing such a recognizable, iconic figure as Coretta Scott King is always a test, passed with flying colors by the British-born thesp, who balances devotion and pride in her man with devastating disappointment when he lets her down.

Keira Knightley

'THE IMITATION CAME'

Significantly expanding her range, Knightley offers a fully defined working woman of the prefeminist era: confidently holding her own amidst a cadre of male brainiacs, yet uncertain in crafting a personal life.

Vanessa Redgrave

'FOXCATCHER'

Thesps have been honored for little screen time, but few make as much of brevity as Dame Vanessa. Her heedless manipulation of a fragile scion serves as the pic's cold, dead heart.

Rene Russo

'NIGHTCRAWLER'

Very much in this category's vein: a long-respected character actress overdue for recognition (June Squibb, Janet McTeer, Melissa Leo, Ruby Dee, etc.). As voters watch co-star Jake Gyllenhaal get wound up, they may also notice Russo scarily falling apart.

Kristen Stewart

'STILL ALICE'

As mom's health declines, watch her younger daughter's airy self-confidence evaporate to reveal the unexpected caregiver within. The young screen sensation emerges from "Twilight" as a serious, skillful thesp in a way voters perennially appreciate.

Emma Stone

'BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)'

She leaves the piquant ingenue of "SpiderMan" far behind with this raw characterization of a recovering addict with a theater-marquee-sized chip on her shoulder. Squaring off successfully with powerhouses Michael Keaton and Ed Norton works in her favor.

Meryl Streep

'INTO THE WOODS'

If there's "Streep fatigue" around (as the thesp herself has suggested), her nailing her anthemic numbers with gritty showmanship, while embodying the rapacious selfishness at the tuner's thematic core should render it moot.

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Title Annotation:Categories; actress performance evaluated
Author:Verini, Bob
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 17, 2014
Words:419
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