On March 2, the 86th annual Academy Awards will be presented at the historic Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, and one of the most talked-about races this year is the Best Actress category. The nominees were chosen from a pool of impressive, brave performances — and each of the five women up for the year’s most coveted trophy deserves to take home the prize. But who will it be? Let’s take a look at the nominees.
Amy Adams, American Hustle
This crime comedy-drama features a slew of outstanding performances, and Adams’s turn as Sydney Prosser, a clever and talented con artist, has all of Hollywood buzzing.
Why she might win: Adams masterfully changes between Prosser and the British aristocrat she’s pretending to be, which makes for a truly compelling performance. And this is her fifth Oscar nomination in eight years, so some voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may feel that it’s the actress’s turn to be honored.
Why she might not: At the beginning of 2014, a lot of the buzz in the industry was centered on American Hustle. Now, there’s some backlash surrounding the film’s numerous accolades, and that could hurt Adams’s chances at Oscar glory.
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Blanchett plays the titular character, a former New York socialite who relocates to San Francisco to after falling into poverty.
Why she might win: Blanchett’s performance as Jasmine is not only one of the most acclaimed of the year, but perhaps the finest of her career. Most critics and pundits see her as the frontrunner in the Best Actress race.
Why she might not: As unrelated as it is to her performance in the film, Allen’s latest scandal may make voters hesitate before casting their ballot for anyone associated with Blue Jasmine.
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Gravity was arguably one of the most stunning films to hit the silver screen in 2013. Bullock shines as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer who gets stranded in space.
Why she might win: For a large part of the film, Bullock is the only actor on screen. But her performance as the emotionally fragile scientist is so powerful that audiences around the world were completely captivated by her struggle to survive.
Why she might not: Bullock already has one Oscar in her trophy case — she won Best Actress in 2009’s The Blind Side. Academy voters may choose to reward Gravity with the technical awards.
Judi Dench, Philomena
Philomena is the true story of a woman who partners with a journalist to find the son she gave away 50 years ago.
Why she might win: Dench has turned in countless memorable performances during her long career, and though she’s racked up seven Academy Award nominations, she’s won only one, for Best Supporting Actress in Shakespeare in Love. Academy voters may end up voting for her entire body of work.
Why she might not: While her performance is outstanding, Philomena lacks the buzz and studio campaigning of some of the other films and performances.
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
In August: Osage County, Streep plays Violet, an aging mother with secrets to tell.
Why she might win: Streep gave one of the strongest performances in a major motion picture this year.
Why she might not: She holds the record for most Academy Award nominations, and she’s already won three — most recently for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in 2011’s The Iron Lady. Chances are, Academy voters will give one of the other actresses a shot at a golden statuette.