Who Is Predicted to Take Home the 2014 Best Actress Oscar?

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A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
February 17th, 2014

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The Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role is one of the highest honors the cinema industry can bestow. The 86th Academy Awards, scheduled to air on March 2, 2014, include five Best Actress Oscar nominees. Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep are all poised to take home acting's biggest award. Which actress is predicted to win? Like many aspects of the Academy Awards, the answer is rarely simple.

This year, all five Best Actress Award nominees are for work in dramatic films. Amy Adams is nominated for her portrayal of clever, manipulative con artist Sydney Prosser in "American Hustle," and Cate Blanchett is nominated for playing fall-from-grace socialite Jeanette "Jasmine" Francis in "Blue Jasmine." Sandra Bullock received her nomination for playing astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone in the hugely popular "Gravity," and Judi Dench for her ruthlessly honest portrayal of working-class mother Philomena Lee in "Philomena." Hollywood favorite Meryl Streep rounds out the nominations for playing the larger-than-life matriarch in "August: Osage County."

Of the nominees, Meryl Streep has already won three Oscars, including two Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscars. Sandra Bullock has also previously taken home the coveted Best Actress award, her only Oscar to date. Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench have each won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Amy Adams has been nominated five times but has not yet won.

There are a number of dynamics that go into selecting the Best Actress Award. If audience popularity were the only criterion, Sandra Bullock would likely win for her role in Alfonso CuarĂ³n's "Gravity," which ranked seventh in American box office gross earnings for 2013 films. Although "American Hustle" also had an initial burst of audience interest, the remaining four films failed to perform well at the box office.

If the Academy Award voting members select the Best Actress Award on basis of performance alone, Judi Dench is likely to win for her role in "Philomena." She had the challenge of making the heart-rending character of Philomena Lee, a working-class Irish woman who goes in search of the son whom she was forced to give up for adoption years ago, appear both realistic and unsentimental.

Judi Dench also had the challenge of performing the role of Philomena with limited eyesight. She has macular degeneration, and learned her script aurally without being able to read it. She gave an astonishing, true-to-life performance as Philomena Lee even though she often could not see the person with whom she was acting a given scene. Judi Dench's work is a testament to the power of acting talent and the capacity of a partially sighted actor to convincingly play a person with full vision.

Although Cate Blanchett's work in "Blue Jasmine" received critical acclaim, the recent controversy about "Blue Jasmine" director Woody Allen is likely to topple her goals of winning Best Actress this year. Academy Award voters are going to be hesitant to award Allen's work due to new accounts of his inappropriate activities with his underage children. This means that Blanchett may have to wait to earn her own Best Actress Oscar, even though popular film blog Indiewire puts her at its top pick for Oscar success.

Meryl Streep, the always-popular favorite, and Amy Adams, who has not yet won an Oscar of her own, may cancel each other out. As Alt Film Guide notes, if Meryl Streep wins, she will tie Katharine Hepburn for most Best Actress Awards won by a single performer. However, the Academy neither gives out awards just to help someone break a record nor does it give awards to new actresses simply because they have not yet won a Best Actress. Although this year would be a coup either for Streep or Adams, fans will have to wait and see if they get the Oscar of their dreams.

Film magazines are still deciding who they think will win the Best Actress Oscar. Cate Blanchett is the popular favorite among many sources, as is Amy Adams. Sandra Bullock is not receiving much notice despite the immense success of her film, and both film legends Judi Dench and Meryl Streep appear to be shortchanged. However, these are initial predictions, and they are likely to change as it gets closer to Oscar time.

This year, the Academy will have many factors to take into account, including film popularity, acting while visually impaired, director controversy and the potential for record-breaking, before making their decision. Until the 2014 Oscars air on March 2, expect to hear as many different predictions as there are opinions.