The good news for Rooney Mara is that nobody saw her as Tiger Lily in "Pan." Among GoldDerby experts, she has led the Best Supporting Actress race since September even before the release "Carol" to rapturous reviews. And then the color-saturated period romance between two women arrived to be anointed another Todd Haynes classic and earn a 97 percent positive Rotten Tomatoes score.
Now that we've seen most of the major supporting performances, Mara remains the pick of 13 out of 22 experts. She is standing tall at 11 to 5 odds.
Rooney's performance as the shop-girl who falls for the wealthy suburbanite proved that her Cannes Best Actress win over co-star Cate Blanchett was no fluke. Mara is better than she ever has been. (And that includes "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," when I finally took her seriously and opposite Daniel Craig in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," when I did not despite her Oscar nomination.)
While Mara landed in supporting, her role is every bit as meaty as that of Blanchett. And there's been some off-camera grumbling about Blanchett's scene chewing. Mara, on the other hand, is fresh, emotional and surprising.
And, while "Carol" will earn many nominations — Best Picture, Director, Actress, Costume Design, Best Production Design and Adapted Screenplay are all possible — Mara could become the period drama's flagship. If the movie gets many nominations but only one award that statue will go to Mara.
Meanwhile, Mara is not alone in the category with a role that has Best Actress breadth. "The Danish Girl"'s Alicia Vikander has been rising steadily in the experts' estimation: she holds the votes of 6 out of 22 experts. Her odds are rising at three to one.
Vikander, like Rooney, fills out another big part that easily could have been a lead. The 27-year-old Swede is as much 'The Danish Girl' as costar Eddie Redmayne who is angling for his second Best Actor following last year's win for "The Theory of Everything." If master schmoozer Redmayne throws his weight behind Vikander — he will not win that second Oscar yet — then she could rise still further.
The rest of the pack has begun to clarify: Oscar-winner Kate Winslet ("The Reader") for "Steve Jobs," battling against both disappointing box office and Jobs fatigue, is in third place with 9/2 odds. While 20 experts predict she will be nominated, only three predict a win.
A word to the wise: don't count out Elizabeth Banks yet as Brian Wilson's wife in "Love and Mercy." While she's currently in the seventh spot, she's on the campaign trail and she is having one hell of a year. She directed and starred in "Pitch Perfect 2," bringing it to a box office gross of $287 million worldwide, and she has a comfortable spot as Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games" franchise.
Despite the competition, Mara should be prepping that speech. Over the past few years at Gold Derby, we've noticed that the early experts' predix for the supporting-acting slots usually pan out. Only last year we were calling the eventual winner, Patricia Arquette for "Boyhood," from very early on.
Make your own early Oscar predictions now beginning with Best Supporting Actress below. Change them later as often as you wish. If you reap one of the top three scores forecasting nominations, you can win our top contest prizes: $500, $300 or $200 Amazon gift certificates. See contest rules.