Unlike the Best Actor category that failed to recognise some of the best performances of the year, the race for the big prize among the ladies is not bad at all, with mostly brilliant and extraordinary performances in the fray. This is going to be a hell of a close contest. Here's why, writes Sudhish Kamath .

Amy Adams

(American Hustle)

Probably the weakest among the nominations, this seems like an entry by default for a David O Russell film (whose actors have always scored nominations third time now after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook). Amy doesn't have much to do but wear retro dresses, boycott lingerie and play the seductress. Probably the only nomination that defies logic. The result of the Academy's love for the filmmaker or the actress who seems to be getting nominated quite regularly, almost every year.

Cate Blanchett

(Blue Jasmine)

Hands down the best performance of the year! Blanchett turns in an absolutely compelling performance as a woman desperate to claim back her life from a downward spiral in Woody Allen's modern tribute to A Streetcar Named Desire. This streetcar is the perfect Oscar-vehicle for the actress who makes us feel for a pretentious mostly despicable character. Blanchett's brilliance lies in making us empathise with her in spite of being far from perfect. It would be safe to put your money on her. A role of a lifetime for the actress.

Sandra Bullock

(Gravity):

This is a well-deserved nomination considering the logistics of the gruelling shoot that required her to be completely isolated with nothing around her but green screen. We don't even get to see much of her in that space suit. Yet, we spend the whole movie with her and nothing except for George Clooney for company in an extended cameo. Bullock brought vulnerability and earnestness that made us root for her survival... but this is a year with two other heavy-duty performances from veteran actresses.

Judi Dench

(Philomena):

It is good to see her finally get her due with this nomination. Dench is one of the most underrated and under-utilised actors. In Philomena, she plays the titular mother in search of her son who was taken away from her 50 years ago. Dench makes it an endearing character as we discover her through the eyes of the journalist writing a human interest story on her ill-fated search. Just watch the stoic acceptance and the subtlety she brings to the performance and you'll see why she's nominated. It would be fun to see her win but she may not.

Meryl Streep

(August: Osage County):

“Women aren't sexy when they're old,” she scowls with a mouth cancer afflicted drawl and you know why Meryl is one of the finest and sexiest actors of all time. It is a superlative performance, just like most of her 18 Oscar nominations and given her unbeatable record, it is safe to say that anything she does these days gets an Oscar nod. Honestly, no actress would mind losing to Meryl Streep given what she has done in this mostly conversational film. A master class in acting. One that could win any day but let's hope she doesn't for Blanchett's sake.

The Best Supporting Actress category appears to be a two-way fight between Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) and any other win would be a massive upset. Here's a quick look at the nominations.

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine): Hawkins is superb as the foil to Blanchett's spoilt ways and this is a solid supporting role, quite literally, as Ginger who has to support her once-rich sister restart her life. Except that it is impossible to support her. Stiff competition.

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle): J Law is a hoot as she gives her character many shades of daft. We know the Academy loves her but it would be really unfair if she wins for this walk in the park, as good as she is in the film. But we'll whistle when they show her on screen.

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave): The fact that the actress has been nominated in the supporting role despite being the epitome of suffering in a film about slavery makes her the strongest in the category. She's most likely to win and deserves to, given the intensity required of the role.

Julia Roberts (August: Osage County): So good to see Julia back in a role where she takes Meryl on and comes out no less brilliant. Any other year, this would have been hers for sure but Lupita is going to get in the way.

June Squib (Nebraska): Squib is a delight to watch in Nebraska, especially in the scene where she gets off the backseat to drive the car away from a property they have trespassed as the owners show up, while her sons are still hiding in the garage after putting back a compressor they unwittingly stole. A well deserved nod.