This year’s Best Actress race is stacked. I’d be willing to listen to arguments that the five ladies involved are the single most talented grouping ever assembled in a Best Actress category. They’re the equivalent of last year’s Best Supporting Actor field. Let’s just do a quick round up. Meryl Streep has eighteen (yes, eighteen) Academy Award nominations. Judi Dench has seven. Cate Blanchette has six, Adam Adams is rocking five and Sandra Bullock, arguably the most famous person in the category, is bringing up the rear with two. That’s a stacked list of competitors, and it tells us we can’t just flippantly write anyone off.

Remember that speech Sally Field gave about everyone liking her? Well, at some basic level, that’s actually true. There has to be wide respect, admiration and some degree of like for a person to be singled out by her peers, and the more nominations someone has, the more overtly that’s true. As such, all of these women have a puncher’s chance of walking away with a gold statue, but from where I’m sitting some of them have a little bit more of a realistic shot than others.

Here’s how this year’s Best Actress field shakes out…

Meryl Streep August Osage County
DARK HORSES: Judi Dench And Meryl Streep
God, it feels weird putting these ladies at the back of any line. They’re among the most respected actresses in the history of Hollywood, but unfortunately, neither is in a movie this year that really connected with the general public. Despite nominations for both her and co-star Julia Roberts, August: Osage County failed to secure a Best Picture nomination and hasn’t made a huge dent at the box office. It also hasn’t really earned a lot of buzz, possibly because it turned out to be a whole lot more serious than many fans imagined when they first heard "family drama with Julia and Meryl".

Philomena, not Philomania, poses a few of its own problems for Dench. The film did nab a Best Picture hat tip, but to this point, it hasn’t even crossed $30 million at the domestic box office. It’s also very heavy with religious themes, which doesn’t rule it out but will be a no-no with certain voters. In a tight race like this in which every vote matters, having a film that’s somehow a little controversial but also not widely seen is a bad formula to accrue enough votes.

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