Predicting the Oscars 2015: Best Actress / Actor

Predicting the Oscars 2015: Best Actress / Actor

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Our attention turns to the stars of the show as we look at lead performers

As we lead up to the 87th Academy Awards, our Film Reviews Editor Emma Simmonds makes her predictions on this year's likely Oscar winners. Here, we look at the contenders for Best Actress (last year's winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine) and Best Actor (last year's winner: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club).

Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees:
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild

What we say: That this has become a one-woman race has been used to illustrate the dearth of decent female leading roles, especially as the male category this year has positively overflowed with options. While that's certainly true, this line-up is better than Julianne Moore's shoo-in status suggests. Her performance is superlative, no doubt, but that she's become such a dead cert is partly down to the fact that she's yet to win an Oscar, so there's the feeling this one has been a long time coming. Rosamund Pike is sensationally spiteful in Gone Girl and Reese Witherspoon digs deep, returning to form in Wild; Felicity Jones may not be yet in their league but she's heartbreaking in The Theory of Everything. Surprise inclusion Cotillard is not only a better choice than the expected alternatives Jennifer Aniston (Cake) or Amy Adams (Big Eyes) – both constricted by weak material – her unshowy anguish in Two Days, One Night arguably makes her the pick of the bunch. She won't win though.

The likely winner: Julianne Moore
The List's winner: Marion Cotillard
Shoulda been contenders: Anne Dorval, Mommy; Julianne Moore (again), Maps to the Stars

Actor in a Leading Role

The nominees:
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

What we say: After his Screen Actors Guild victory, it's currently Eddie Redmayne's to lose, with Michael Keaton's comeback the biggest threat (not least as he's up until recently been the favourite). But with Bradley Cooper surging for his work in the controversial American Sniper (which has vocal support from some factions of the Academy) there may be three horses in this particular race. Given that the Best Actress category is a lock that's good news for those who prefer to spend the evening on the edge of their seat. And there's some excellent work here, so it's no surprise that it's competitive: Cooper adds depth and humanity where this is none on paper, similarly Cumberbatch's nuanced work transcends the simplification of the piece; Redmayne is a revelation, as is the deeply unsettling Carell, and Keaton is wonderfully, courageously ravaged, putting himself right out there for consideration. Timothy Spall, David Oyelowo and Ralph Fiennes would have all been worthy substitutions here in a very strong year for the category.

The likely winner: Eddie Redmayne
The List's winner: Michael Keaton
Shoulda been a contender: Timothy Spall, Mr Turner; David Oyelowo, Selma; Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Predicting the Oscars 2015: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress / Actor, Best Adapted / Original Screenplay.

See the full list of Oscar 2015 nominees.

Watch the 87th Academy Awards live on Sky Movies Oscars Sun 22 Feb from 11.30pm.

Cate Blanchett winning Best Actress

Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor