Which of this year's candidates for the Best Actress Academy Award do you think should take home the Oscar?
Watch clips from their nominated performances by clicking on the embedded video players; then, be sure to vote in our poll below on who you think should win!
- Complete list of 2015 Academy Award nominations
- Downloadable Oscar Ballot (pdf) - For your Oscar party or office pool
- Complete CBSNews.com coverage: The Academy Awards
Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"
In the Belgian film "Two Days, One Night," Marion Cotillard (an Oscar-winner for "La Vie en Rose") stars as Sandra, a financially-strapped and emotionally-fragile worker at a solar panel factory who learns that -- due to budget constraints -- her job has been put up to a vote. Her co-workers, asked to decide between receiving a bonus or keeping Sandra on staff, opted for the bonus.
Though convinced that there is nothing in her power to change her fate, she is urged by her husband to embark on a weekend's mission, to talk one-on-one with her co-workers and plead her case -- to convince them to vote against their self-interests so that she can keep her job.
Cotillard, who carries the entire film, succeeds in maintaining that delicate balance of hope and despair throughout her struggle, especially as she is forced to make ethical choices of her own. In the film clip above, Sandra fears that even if she were able to sway a majority of co-workers to vote her way, the antipathy among the staff denied their 1,000-euro bonus would make it impossible for her to continue on the job anyway. Just how can one win when faced with a lose-lose proposition?
Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"
Based on the memoir of Stephen Hawking's first wife, "The Theory of Everything" recounts the meeting, marriage and break-up of the young cosmologist and Jane, a literature student at Cambridge who ignores Hawking's wish that she leave him once he receives a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease -- and a doctor's prediction that he has just two years left to live.
Of course, Hawking (played by Best Actor nominee Eddie Redmayne) does not die, but the marriage of Stephen and Jane is constantly tested, given his physical affliction and the responsibilities placed upon her to care for him and their children.
This is the first Oscar nomination for Jones, who previously starred in "The Invisible Woman" (as Charles Dickens' mistress), "The Tempest" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," and who will be featured in the upcoming stand-alone "Star Wars" film due in 2016.
Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
In "Still Alice," Julianne Moore portrays a university professor fighting Early Onset Alzheimer's.
"This is somebody who's primarily defined by her intellect, so she's kind of questioning who she is," Moore told CBS News' Charlie Rose. "How does she cope? How does she present herself? How does she fight the decline? How does she preserve her relationships?"
Her performance has earned Moore her fifth Academy Award nomination (after "Boogie Nights," "The End of the Affair," "Far From Heaven" and "The Hours").
"I think my career has always been incremental," said Moore. "I didn't get my first role in movies until I was 29 years old, so there was never any big surge ... I would say I'm like a mouse chewing through a wall!"
Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
Much of Rosamund Pike's performance in "Gone Girl," based on Gillian Flynn's bestselling mystery, is hidden behind spoiler alerts, and it is precisely behind those firewalls of plot that her best work shines.
As Amy, a young wife whose disappearance pushes her husband under a police and media microscope as a potential murderer, Pike is icy, sensual, vindictive, ruthless, demanding, and scared when things don't go her way. Her performance is key to making David Fincher's film work as a glistening, jaded take on matrimony.
In the flashback scene above, Amy and Nick (Ben Affleck) meet at the kind of New York party that lingers and blooms in memory, the kind of event you'd tell your grandchildren about.
This is Pike's first Academy Award nomination.
Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"
Reese Witherspoon previously won the Best Actress Oscar for the biopic "Walk the Line," playing June Carter Cash. In "Wild" she plays another true-life figure: Cheryl Strayed, whose 2012 memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" describes a young woman who became self-destructive, took drugs and had random sex with anonymous men. In part to escape her failed marriage and recuperate from the death from cancer of her mother, Strayed embarked on an 1,100-mile solo hiking trek, something for which she was inexperienced and ill-prepared (watch clip above).
The film, Witherspoon told CBS News' Charlie Rose, "is about grief and loss and self-harm and how we have to choose to save ourselves."
"I don't think I've ever in my life had to do scenes that were so exposing, and raw."
Witherspoon revealed that her mother, like her character in the movie, had lost her mother when she was very young -- and she relived her mother's grief in preparing for the role.
"My mother's mother died when she was 20. I didn't understand as a little girl why she was crying. And she would say, 'I miss my mom.' And I held her grief in my body. I didn't even realize I held her grief for her for so long. Then when my mom saw the film, she said to me, 'I know that you saw me. 'Cause that's my story.'"
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Oscars 2015: Best Actress
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