Oscar Circuit: Best Actress

And the Nominees Are:

Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs”
Oscar Scene: “I could live here.”

Viola Davis for “The Help”
Oscar Scene: “You’re a Godless Woman!”

Rooney Mara for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Oscar Scene: “He’s had a long standing sexual relationship with his co-editor of the magazine. Sometimes he performs cunnilingus on her. Not often enough in my opinion.”

Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady”
Oscar Scene: “It used to be about trying to do something. Now it’s about trying to be someone.”

Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn”
Oscar Scene: “People always see Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they realize I’m not her, they run.”

Regardless of what critics and audiences can say about the performances nominated in this category, the sheer talent of women in this category is something to marvel at. All five women have presented themselves in the most positive and talented limelight during their respective careers. Besides Streep who already has two, all these women can feasibly become Oscar winners one day. Some sooner than others obviously.

Glenn Close has had an impressive career spanning the past three decades. Including her nomination this year for the title character of “Albert Nobbs,” Close has been cited six times by the Academy for her work. Almost seemed like the “It” girl of the 1980’s, four of her nominations came that decade. Her first nomination in George Roy Hill’s “The World According to Garp” landed her in the forefront of talent in Hollywood. Along with co-star John Lithgow, both went home empty handed on Oscar night, losing the Supporting Actress Oscar to Jessica Lange in the popular, box-office hit, “Tootsie.” She would return the following year in the same category in Lawrence Kasdan’s “The Big Chill.” The film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Close never stood a chance against against critics’ darling Linda Hunt in “The Year of Living Dangerously.” Close bounces back for the third year in a row in Barry Levinson’s “The Natural.” Pulling a Michael Shannon-esque nomination, when she wasn’t cited all season by any critics group, and even her co-star Kim Basinger managed to land a Golden Globe nomination, Close was definitely an Academy favorite.

After a three-year Oscar hiatus, Glenn Close came back strong and now considered a leading lady in Adrian Lyne’s popular “Fatal Attraction.” Besides scaring every man in American from ever cheating on their spouses, Close inhabited a character not seen of her before. The film went on to be nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture. Some considered Close an audience favorite to take it home. Enter Cher and “Moonstruck.” Cher’s witty, charisma in the 1987 film gained much popularity landing Cher her Best Actress award. At this point, Close is one of the top women working in the business. She bounces back the following year in Stephen Frear’s “Dangerous Liaisons” and landing her fifth nomination but losing out to Jodie Foster in “The Accused.” Deserved? Probably but Close was the Kate Winslet of the 80’s, an talented actress Oscar just loved to see on their red carpet. Now, 23 years later, Glenn Close pulls out her passion project “Albert Nobbs,” the story of a woman living as a man in the 19th century. While the film didn’t receive the finest reviews, Close and co-star Janet McTeer’s performances were highly regarded. While some of written Close off as a formidable contender due to the lackluster reviews, the power of sentiment and rewarding a great career can work in her favor. It worked for James Coburn for “Affliction,” and Geraldine Page in “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Viola Davis has been a working actress for years. Having delivered memorable turns in Todd Haynes’ “Far from Heaven,” “Antwone Fisher,” and “Solaris,” Davis has always shown the potential to helm her own picture on her acting merits alone. Most discovered her existence in John Patrick Shanley’s adaptation of his own play, “Doubt.” Davis went on to be nominated along with co-star Amy Adams in the Supporting Actress field. Losing to Penelope Cruz for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” may have upset some and feel her ten minutes of screen time were the best ten minutes performed in 2008. This year Viola Davis delivered her most heart aching and memorable work yet in Tate Taylor’s “The Help.” As Aibileen Clark, a housemaid with a heart of gold and even deeper pain, Davis’ conveys a sensitive and highly emotional performance. Since the season began, Davis has played the circuit extremely well. First, declaring herself in the Lead category instead of moving easily into the conventional supporting category, Davis knew what she wanted. Her tender speeches after winning the Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards have kept her a big favorite among the acting branch as well as critics. Viola’s Oscar wins almost seems inevitable even with BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Meryl Streep breathing down her neck.

Rooney Mara has established an up and coming demeanor the past few years. She landed the title role of Nancy in the 2010 remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Streeet.” She also delivered a brief but terrific turn in David Fincher’s “The Social Network” last year. A lot of promise was seen from Mara throughout the years. She had appearances in indie films like “Youth and Revolt,” and “Tanner Hall” as well. When she was cast as Lisbeth Salandar in the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” I remained skeptical. The role was revolutionized by newcomer Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version which kept in her in light discussion for Academy consideration. The final product of the American version was mixed-to-positive. Mostly critics were praising Mara’s interpretation of the character and believed in an authentic assimilation of a very complex woman. Her Oscar nomination was surprising to some, given the film picked up a late traction after being cited by the Directors and Producers Guilds of America. She was also cited by the National Board of Review as Breakthrough Performance – Female of the year. This is a nomination that will lead to other challenging and more composite works.

What can be said about Meryl Streep that hasn’t already been said? Her first nomination came in 1979 for Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter.” She won her first Oscar the following year as a mother trying to take back her son in Robert Benton’s “Kramer vs. Kramer.” In 1983, Streep delivered her most vulnerable and emotional work in Alan J. Pakula’s “Sophie’s Choice.” In four nominations, Streep already netted her two Oscars, one in Supporting, the other as Lead. A feat that many never accomplish. Thirteen nominations later, Streep is in the hunt once again, this time playing Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd’s “The Iron Lady.” The film received mediocre reviews for the film itself but most praised Streep’s dedication to the woman. While many fans are rallying to get her a third Oscar when actors like Jack Nicholson and Katherine Hepburn have either done or surpassed the magic number, Streep seems due. She won the Golden Globe and BAFTA award but momentum is very much on Viola Davis’ side as she her film is not a Best Picture nominee and the only other nomination is in the Makeup category.

The last nominee Michelle Williams, on paper, should be winning this award. The past few winners in this category have all been around her age range. Playing Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis’ “My Week with Marilyn,” seemed almost a shoo-in for awards attention. She was also fresh off her nomination in Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine.” Williams has been a talent to watch for years. Getting her start in television’s “Dawson’s Creek,” Williams blazed onto the independent circuit in “The Station Agent,” “Land of Plenty,” and “Wendy and Lucy.” She was first nominated for her work opposite Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ang Lee’s cowboy love story, “Brokeback Mountain.” After missing a few key notices for her independent works, Williams took on Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” and Charlie Kaufman’s “Syndedoche, New York.” Both works were highly praised for her performances and just started to show the depth and range of her abilities as an actor. After revealing the most natural depiction of a bad relationship in Cianfrance’s film, Williams has been deemed a person destined to win an Oscar one day. Winning the Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy category, along with Chicago and Toronto critics citations, Williams has been a realistic contender to take the Best Actress award if a split were to happen between Davis and Streep. The film’s mixed reviews have been a hurdle for her to jump all season long and besides the Globe, Williams hasn’t anything substantial that would pose a threat in the end. It may just be wishful thinking.

Best Actress this year is hot on talent and even hotter with the ladies. The consensus is Davis vs. Streep and in the end it will likely be one of those two. I’ve been yelling from the mountain tops for a while, not to underestimate Close.

FINAL PREDICTION: Viola Davis
Alternate: Glenn Close

Snubs: Juliette Binoche for “Certified Copy,” Adepero Oduye for “Pariah,” and Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin”