The best actress category is by far the most spread out this year. There are two locks and several actresses who could make the cut. This is the most difficult to predict.
It is safe to say that Keira Knightley is out of the race. I had initially predicted her to win, I thought that the film and the role would be too Oscar bait to ignore. However Knightley has never done too well with awards. I thought that the race was open enough for Leslie Mann to be a potential contender, but the Globes did not even recognize the movie and there are too many other actresses in the race. There are a few veteran outliers that could potentially make it in such as Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and even a small shot for Meryl Streep. However I would say that the race is between seven actresses.
The contender on life support right now is Quvenzhane Wallis, which is not surprising considering her age, unknown status and small film. Unfortunately it is not looking like Beasts of the Southern Wild will receive as many nominations as many had hoped. Also faltering is Emmanuelle Riva who started precursor season out strong but failed to make an appearance at SAG or Globes. She is a foreign actress who is unknown stateside in a movie that many are not seeing. I have a feeling that Amour's recognition will be relegated to Best Foreign Language Film. Also still in contention is Rachel Weisz, this is a late entry in the race but after winning New York Film Critics Circle and beating out several actresses for a Globe nomination it looks as if she may be a spoiler.
But at this point the most likely five seem to be Helen Mirren, Naomi Watts, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Mirren, Watts and Cotillard could easily be replaced by an upset. But those three have been the most consistent. However none of their films are up for many Oscars. In their favor is that they are all prolific and well liked.
Of course the frontrunners are Lawrence and Chastain. Lawrence is a lock for a nomination while it is looking like Chastain is a lock for the win. Don't see anyone else winning outside of these two. but Lawrence could potentially upset.