There isn't much suspense in this year's race for the best actress Oscar, but there's certainly some tension. Cate Blanchett, playing a fallen socialite in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," has been the front-runner ever since the film's July release. Earlier this month, however, came an open letter from Allen's adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, accusing the filmmaker of molesting her when she was 7 years old. Farrow pointedly asked, "What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett?" The scandal may not change the Oscar results, but it raises the question of what, if anything, Blanchett will say in what's likely to be a closely watched acceptance speech.
THE ACTRESS Amy Adams, "American Hustle"
THE DEAL If there's an upset in this category, it might be Adams. In David O. Russell's rollicking caper flick, she's terrific as a con woman who somehow manages to be deceitful, truthful, fickle and faithful all in the same split second.
THE ACTRESS Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"
THE DEAL Critics went virtually breathless raving about this deep-space thriller, though it seemed clear that the movie was mostly a triumph of technology. Nevertheless, here's Bullock in the best actress category, and there's "Gravity" jockeying for the lead in the best picture race.
THE ACTRESS Judi Dench, "Philomena"
THE DEAL As a working-class Irish woman searching for her lost child, Dench turns in a lovely but not quite Oscar-caliber performance. If anything, the movie's success may spell good things for her unlikely co-star, Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote and co-produced.
THE ACTRESS Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"
THE DEAL Apparently, the unspoken rule at Oscar headquarters is that when Meryl acts, Meryl gets nominated. Mixed reactions to this talky play-turned-movie, however, make her a long shot.
THE ACTRESS Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
THE DEAL A shadow may hang over Blanchett when she walks the aisle, but there's no taking away from her marvelous performance in Allen's film. It will still be an Oscar well-deserved.