Oscar actresses

The Oscar Bowl 2015: Women’s All-Star Team

by Stella Braintree

Welcome to the Oscar Bowl a.k.a. the Super Bowl for movies!

These events should prove to be nail-bitingly, nerve-wracking and full of fun! Just pull up a comfy chair and crack open a buffalo wing. Oh, it’s exciting – so much can happen! Like, who’ll trip up her dress on the red carpet? Who’ll try to intercept a passed statuette and fumble their acceptance speech? Whose ego will get deflated first? (And how exactly do they measure ego-pressure?!) And most importantly, who’ll rush the end zone to pose for a selfie with Ellen DeGeneres?

But before the games begin, let’s meet the All-Star Players!

Team Best Actress:

Felicity Jones – “Bright Star”

Felicity Jones may be the least familiar nom to U.S. audiences, so allow me to introduce her: She grew up in Bournville, a picturesque village in England. There, she dabbled in acting and at fifteen, won a role in the Radio 4 soap opera, The Archers. Highly academic, she studied English at Wadham College, Oxford (Rosamund Pike’s alma mater), but never lost her dramatic ambitions.

Jones got her first break in the BBC drama, Servants. Years of telly and stage productions later, she shined in films with such mega-dazzlers as Helen Mirren (The Tempest), Guy Pearce (Breathe In) and Ralph Fiennes (The Invisible Woman). Her performance in 2011’s Like Crazy won accolades galore, and her career burned brighter.

In The Theory of Everything, she plays Stephen Hawking’s wife, Jane. Typically the spouse or sidekicks repel our interest, but Felicity fills Jane’s palate with such vibrant colors and striking textures we’re entirely captivated.

Look to see Jones in True Story (with James Franco and Jonah Hill); Autobahn (Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley); and sparkling up the Untitled Star Wars Project!

Marion Cotillard – “Song Bird”

Marion Cotillard learned to sing and act from her theatrical parents. She’s performed in stage productions since childhood, appeared in French television and films as a teen, and studied at Conservatoire dÁrt Dramatique in her hometown of Orlèans.

Her beauty and talent flew her to Hollywood, where in 2003, she won a role in Tim Burton’s Big Fish. Work continued steadily in France and America, and she always stayed in tune without ruffling many feathers. But she hit a high note in 2007’s La Vie en Rose – and her portrayal of French chanteuse, Édith Piaf gave her Worldwide status. That year, Britain honored her with a BAFTA, France gave her a César, and Ms Cotillard won a Best Actress Oscar.

Marion whistled a cheerier tune in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and racked up numerous international noms for her dramatic turn in the acclaimed, Rust in Bone.

In the Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night, Cotillard’s working-class mother belts desperation with such force and resonance even we can’t help but sing her praises. (And the Academy offered another well-deserved nod.)

Keep an eye out for Marion in Macbeth (with Michael Fassbender); and later this year, she “voices” The Rose in The Little Prince.

Rosamund Pike – “Ice Ice Baby”

Rosamund Pike grew up in London, traveled Europe with her opera-singer parents, and developed a love of theater. She graduated with English Lit honors from Wadham College, Oxford, and quickly found acting work in UK films and TV shows, including Love in a Cold Climate; Foyle’s War, and numerous features (An Education, Pride & Prejudice).

Pike was cast as chilly Bond Girl, Miranda Frost, in Die Another Day. From there, her icy Grace Kelly looks got her into a West End play, Hitchcock Blonde (where she appeared nude – Brrrr!). After making the hit Johnny English Reborn, Tom Cruise swept her off her skates to co-star in Jack Reacher.

In 2013, Pike’s career spun into more success when she played every guy’s dream girl in The World’s EndHowever, she still wasn’t a household name across the pond. Turns out director David Fincher wanted a relative unknown for thriller, Gone Girl, and Rosamund landed the most coveted female role in Hollywood. (Guess playing cool and enigmatic paid off ‘cause she got herself an Oscar nod, too!)

Listen for her in Thunderbirds Are Go! (as Lady Penelope); and see this statuesque stunner in Return to Sender (with Nick Nolte).

Reese Witherspoon – “Hiker Babe”

By her teens, Reese Witherspoon was making TV commercials in her hometown, Nashville. In 1990, she auditioned for coming-of-age film The Man in the Moon, and so impressed director Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird; Summer of ’42), he cast her as the lead. After high school, though she’d set her sights on attending Stanford, Hollywood took her off course and…

Reese trekked through small film roles, finally getting a toehold in Pleasantville and Cruel Intentions. She forged ahead and gained yet more ground playing ultra-competitive Tracy Flick in Election. But the role that really put her on the map was Elle, the pink-obsessed sorority girl with eyes on a Harvard Law degree. Legally Blonde climbed to smash hit status, and she produced a sequel. In 2005, her role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line earned Witherspoon a Best Actress Oscar, and —

After stumbling into a few less-than-challenging movies, she considered playing the titular character in Gone Girl, yet bowed out to produce it. Then she read Cheryl Strayed’s best seller Wild, about a young woman’s solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, and knew she’d better stake a claim to that role. Witherspoon promptly bought the rights for her production company, Pacific Standard Films, and her performance has led her to Oscar’s summit once again.

Catch her in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice (with Walk the Line’s Joaquin Phoenix); also with Sofia Vergara in Wish List.

Julianne Moore – “The Little Mermaid”

In 2008, Annie Leibovitz snapped Julianne Moore as a sea nymph – and between her flaming ginger tresses and angelic gaze, she does bear strong likeness to a Disney character. But rather than celebrate her enviable bone structure or aquatic talents, let’s focus on her career…

“Julie” grew up in a military family, living in the U.S. and Germany. After earning a B.F.A. from Boston University’s School of Performing Arts, a conch shell beckoned her to New York City, where she dipped her toe into theater and splashed around in As the World Turns. Once out of the soap suds —

She dove from Robert Altman’s Short Cuts through a school of films, including Boogie Nights, where she played washed-up porno actress, “Amber Waves.” (Hey, hold her liable for this lame nautical theme!) Julianne submerged herself into indie hits like the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski and her second Paul Thomas Anderson film, Magnolia.

In 2002, Moore re-teamed with Safe director, Todd Haynes, in Far From Heaven (as a ‘50s housewife confronting her husband’s secret); and made time for The Hours (co-starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman). Her roles have always seemed to chide predictability and serve as artistic challenge, endowing fans all the more tastes to savor. To further impress us, she’s glided easily from drama to comedy. (HBO’s Game Change provided each, and her channeling of Sarah Palin was spot-on.)

Not one fear to dark places, in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s Still Alice, Julianne tests the deep waters of a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s. While not her most upbeat work, her bravery and raw performance has wowed audiences and critics alike.

Before I clam up, let me add that Moore’s survived enough storms (four previous nods!) to ignore her acting skills and film contributions – So, holy mackerel — Toss Ariel an Oscar already!

*Oh, and later this year make sure to catch her in Freeheld (with Luke Grimes and Steve Carrell); and The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part II.

Best of luck to the team!!!

If you enjoyed this piece, please check out The Oscar Bowl 2015: Men’s All-Star Team.

Photos: Felicity Jones: CarlaVanWagoner / Shutterstock.com; Rosamund Pike: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com; Marion Cotillard: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com; Reese Witherspoon: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com; Julianne Moore: Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com

Stella Braintree

About Stella Braintree

Stella Braintree is a screenwriter, performance artist and dreamer.

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