One Of These 15 Women Will (Almost Definitely) Win Best Actress

Who's ahead in the Best Actress race? Can anyone top Cate Blanchett? We're handicapping the odds.
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Welcome to For Your Consideration, HuffPost Entertainment's breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and March 2, 2014, we'll be chatting about awards season and discussing which films will make the most noise at the 86th annual Academy Awards.

This week, entertainment editor Christopher Rosen and associate entertainment editor Matthew Jacobs are tackling the Best Actress race. It's crowded out there, but we've discerned a few definitive frontrunners who are likely to maintain their momentum all the way to the Oscar red carpet. Ahead, our racetrack odds for which of the 15 contenders will crack the final five.

Shailene Woodley, "The Spectacular Now"
Odds of a Nod: 30-1. Shailene Woodley is the new Jennifer Lawrence in a lot of ways, but that doesn't mean she'll become an Oscar winner at 22. Despite the wonderful performance Woodley, who turns 22 on Nov. 15, gives in "The Spectacular Now," it's likely too indie for Academy Awards recognition. More like unspectacular now. -- Christopher Rosen
Naomi Watts, "Diana"
Entertainment One
Odds of a Nod: 30-1. Naomi Watts was once considered a big contender for Best Actress ... and then the British press got their eyes on "Diana." The movie was panned when it premiered overseas in September, and the vitriolic reactions seemed to render any potential nomination a long shot for Watts, this despite her stature as one of the top leading actresses in Hollywood. -- Matthew Jacobs
Greta Gerwig, "Frances Ha"
IFC Films
Odds of a Nod: 30-1. Greta Gerwig first made a splash with 2010's "Greenberg," which netted her an Independent Spirit Award nomination. She'll likely encounter the same fate with "Frances Ha," another Noah Baumbach indie gem that led to mounds of praise for the actress. Gerwig probably needs to cross over into slightly more mainstream fare to crack the Oscar pool. Get thee to a period piece, Ms. Gerwig. -- MJ
Berenice Bejo, "The Past"
Memento Films
Odds of a Nod: 25-1. At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Berenice Bejo nabbed Best Actress for her performance in "The Past." Unfortunately, that probably won't be too much of a factor for 37-year-old star, a previous nominee in the Best Supporting Actress category for "The Artist": The last actress to win the prize from both the Cannes jury and the Academy was Holly Hunter, for 1993's "The Piano." -- MJ
Julie Delpy, "Before Midnight"
Sony Pictures Classics
Odds of a Nod: 25-1. Julie Delpy is outstanding in "Before Midnight," but like Woodley, Gerwig and Bejo, the buzz on her work seems relegated to the indie ghetto. That's unfortunate but not a total deal-breaker for Oscar night: Delpy, co-star Ethan Hawke and director Richard Linklater stand a strong chance of being nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, much like they were for "Before Sunset" in 2005. -- CR
Brie Larson, "Short Term 12"
Odds of a Nod: 20-1. See also: Julie Delpy, Shailene Woodley, Greta Gerwig. Larson is exceptional in "Short Term 12," but hers is the type of performance that often gets overlooked by Oscar voters. The comparable is, perhaps, Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone," but that film was a stark throwback drama, and not a coming-of-age tale shot in Instagram-y tones and accompanied by an indie rock score. -- CR
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Enough Said"
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Odds of a Nod: 18-1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the most-nominated comedic actress in Emmy history, but can her success translate to the Oscar race as well? Nicole Holofcener's rom-com marks Louis-Dreyfus' first live-action film performance in 16 years. She's been widely praised for the role, and some awards experts -- including Grantland's Mark Harris -- have championed her as someone who could become a grassroots Oscar contender. That'll be a tough feat for a comedic actress, however, even for someone with such prestige. (Good thing, then, that Golden Globes exist.) -- MJ
Kate Winslet, "Labor Day"
Odds of a Nod: 15-1. Winslet has received strong reviews for her performance in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," but will that be enough? So many of the year's contenders have already made splashy debuts, and "Labor Day" -- which screened at film festivals in both Telluride and Toronto -- has failed to make a significant impact thus far. With so much competition, will Winslet get left behind? -- CR
Amy Adams, "American Hustle"
Odds of a Nod: 10-1. Amy Adams looks great in "American Hustle" (those clothes!), and Amy Adams sounds great in "American Hustle" (that accent!), but will her performance have any depth beyond the surface? That's the key question here, and the answer will go a long way to deciding her status as a nominee or a snubee. -- CR
Adele Exarchopoulos, "Blue Is The Warmest Color"
Odds of a Nod: 8-1 At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Exarchopoulos, along with Lea Seydoux and director Abdellatif Kechiche, was awarded the Palme d'Or for her work in "Blue Is The Warmest Color." That's significant: It's the only time actresses have shared the Cannes honor with the film's director. (Steven Spielberg, the Cannes jury head, was a huge fan of the film and the actresses' performances.) Which is to say, Exarchopoulos stands a great chance at finding a way into the final five for Best Actress, presuming that Oscar voters aren't turned off by the "Blue Is The Warmest Color" sex scenes or its controversial tabloid headlines. -- CR
Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"
The Weinstein Company
Odds of a Nod: 5-1. The indefatigable Meryl Streep returns to the awards scene in "August: Osage County," playing a role that won Deanna Dunagan a Tony Award in the Broadway stage production of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. Streep is primed to score a nomination for her work, but it's not guaranteed. One big issue? That Streep and co-star Julia Roberts have been shuffled back and forth between lead and supporting categories, and some voters might still consider this as Roberts' movie, even if the ballot says otherwise. -- MJ
Judi Dench, "Philomena"
BBC Films
Odds of a Nod: 3-1. If anyone is likely to pull an upset win on Oscar night, it's Judi Dench. The 78-year-old actress is a six-time nominee, and she should score her seventh for portraying the title character in "Philomena," which nabbed Best Screenplay at the Venice International Film Festival. (Dench won just one Oscar, for her brief performance in "Shakespeare in Love.") Not only has Dench's performance been hailed as "a triumph," but she'll have the full might of Harvey Weinstein behind her throughout awards season. ("Philomena" is a Weinstein Company release.) She's this category's closest comparable to Robert Redford. -- MJ
Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks"
Odds of a Nod: 3-1.The early reviews of "Saving Mr. Banks" confirmed what everyone assumed: Emma Thompson is excellent in the role of "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks," and the four-time nominee (and two-time winner) will likely find herself among the final five at the 86th annual Academy Awards in March. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. -- CR
Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"
Warner Bros.
Odds of a Nod: 1-2. For the sheer physicality of her work alone, Bullock would be a likely Oscar nominee. Toss in the dramatic heft she brings to the role of a NASA doctor lost in space, and this nomination feels locked down. The biggest issue for Bullock is picking just one Oscar clip. -- CR
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Sony Pictures Classics
Odds of a Nod: 1-5. As an embittered Manhattan socialite whose luxury vanishes when her philandering husband is sent to prison, Cate Blanchett's transformative performance in "Blue Jasmine" is the current Best Actress front-runner. And why not? Beyond great reviews, Blanchett has the added bonus of being in a Woody Allen movie, which proved helpful for previous Oscar winners like Diane Keaton, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest (twice), Mira Sorvino and Penelope Cruz. She's also basically playing Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire," and that worked out just fine for Vivien Leigh, who won Best Actress at the 1952 ceremony. Cheers, Cate. -- MJ
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