The best actress this year is being neglected. There are already a couple of front runners which have left many other actress in the dust. People’s eyes are on the prize for the Best Picture Oscar, and so they’re not as concerned with the Best Actress category. This week on Oscar Scuttlebutt we run down the list of potential best actress nominees and why you should be paying attention to this category.

First let’s get through some of the bigger, more obvious names that’ll inevitably get nominated for this category. The surprising current frontrunner is none other than Jessica Chastain for Kathryn Bigelow‘s latest movie Zero Dark Thirty. Ever since the first screening took place last weekend, critics have been raving about her performance in the real life story on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. This isn’t her first time making a trip to the Oscars, being nominated for Best Supporting in her role in The Help. While she didn’t walk away with a golden boy, since at that year she was, after all, the dark horse of the group, her chances of getting that statue in her hands is high after he breakthrough year in 2011.

At the same time she isn’t the only actress whose got a great shot of winning it all. There’s Quvenzhané Wallis, the young actress in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Like we previously mentioned, the Oscar buzz hasn’t stopped surrounding this actress since this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Given the fact that Sundance takes place in late January, that says a lot about the eight-year-old’s performance. But then there’s Jennifer Lawrence playing the cat-eyed, sharp-tongued female lead in Silver Linings Playbook. Although critics have been beside themselves on how the movie is as a whole, including our own critic, they unanimously agree that Lawrence’s performance is Oscar-worthy. Don’t believe us? Then let this list solidify our claim.

The three names that are more than likely a lock for Best Actress includes these three women, but what about the remaining two slots? Therein lines the problem. There’s a number of other actresses that have been stellar throughout this year. A couple of those note-worthy actresses include Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone). If we had to make a guess, it’s entirely plausible that Knightley will take the fourth slot, especially since this movie’s been attracting a lot of attention for it’s cool visual style that may lead to an Oscar nomination for director Joe Wright.

Then what about slot number five? Well there are a couple of dark horses that could knock Marion Cotillard and Mary Elizabeth Winstead out of the running. Though Hitchcock has critics divided, Helen Mirren‘s name has been mentioned before as a potential nominee, playing the wife of the famed filmmaker who helped him behind the scenes a countless number of times. We would also like to mention that Emmanuelle Riva’s heart wrenching performance in Amour is amazing but sadly will more than likely not get the awards attention she so deserves.

But what about Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed? Yesterday she got nominated for Best Female Lead at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards. Where some may argue that the Independent Spirit Awards doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to the Oscar race, we’d like to argue otherwise. Their nomination list, though slightly varied due to their guidelines of who constitutes as being worthy of an Indie Spirit nomination, still very much at times reflects what some of the best actor, best supporting actor races will look like on the Oscar ballot in a month’s time.

In the end, why should we be paying attention to this? There’s a thrill about not having a sure fire winner for the Best Actress category. What it means is that it could go to anyone, or we could even see a couple of dark horses climb their way into one of the five nomination slots. What’s great about categories like this is the unpredictability of it all. Even when you think that said actress could run away with it all, there could be a huge upset just around the corner. You should also be giving these movies a watch if they’re playing near your area. Another thing the Oscars encourages is to see pictures that may not have been on your radar. Check out what all the fuss is about and just going through the increasingly underrated movie-going experience.

Enough about what other people believe the Best Actress race this year looks like, what do we think of it. Well if it were up to me, this is who I’d have in the running for Best Actress:

  • Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
  • Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone

If you haven’t been keeping up with the latest coming out of this awards season, then keep on reading. This past weekend the Gotham Independent Film Awards took place in New York. They gave honor to some of the great movies of this year as Moonrise Kingdom walked away with Best Feature. To read the whole list of winners, click here.

Who do you think is going to win best actress?