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Rooney Mara - "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Pros: Mara clearly has admirers in the Academy, having surprised many with a Best Actress nomination for her startling performance in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" two years ago -- a breakthrough that has netted her collaborations with the likes of Spike Jonze, Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh and Todd Haynes. The young actress shows a more romantic, vulnerable side as a reformed outlaw in David Lowery's moodily romantic crime drama, which garnered critical raves at Sundance, and this softer facet of her screen persona will impress those who still think of her as Lisbeth Salander. A supporting role in Jonze's much-anticipated "Her" this autumn will keep her profile aloft.
Cons: The film couldn't quite revive the Sundance buzz when it hit theaters in August, and has now largely fallen out of the conversation. Meanwhile, good as Mara is in it, some might argue that her male co-stars, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster, have more complex roles to work with. Mara, for her part, was arguably even stronger in "Side Effects" earlier this year -- a tributary performance that would boost her campaign for this one if it hadn't also slid off the radar.