This could be the most difficult category to call at the Oscars this year. The Best Actress nominees are Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty”, Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook”, Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour”, Quvenzahane Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Naomi Watts for “The Impossible”.

This is really a three woman race between Riva, Lawrence and Chastain. Wallis would be a feel good story, but children actors and actresses rarely get the win and Watts has just been overshadowed. Of the three who stand a real shot, Chastain is the least likely to win. Her chances have taken a big hit over the past month because of controversy, then a lack of buzz and increased attendance and buzz for Lawrence. “Zero Dark Thirty” is a great film, but it’s looking like that film as a whole will be on the outside looking in. Lawrence has seen her stock rise greatly. After “The Hunger Games” and “Silver Linings Playbook”, Lawrence took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress. And with SLP finding an increased audience, she has a lot of the momentum. Riva may spoil her run to the Oscar, however. Riva’s performance is fantastic. I mean fantastic. I was surprised by Lawrence’s great performance, shocked by how good Chastain was. Now after having time to think about it, if I was going to give it to who deserves it the most based on performance only, Riva would be my choice. Also, she’s turning 86 on Oscar night! How would that be for a birthday gift? Still, I get the sneaking suspicion that Lawrence will take home the trophy. Lawrence will win, though I wouldn’t be shocked, and probably happy, if Riva takes it home.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at