jennifer lawrence

"American Hustle"

Role: Rosalyn Rosenfeld, the luscious bimbo wife of a con man working for the feds.

In her favor: That epic updo. Those delirious line readings. That scene in which she sings "Live and Let Die" while wearing yellow rubber gloves. Plus, everyone loves her.

Then again: Pffft. She's got it.

lupita NYONg'0

"12 Years a Slave"

Role: Patsey, a beautiful, hardworking slave adored yet tortured by her vicious master.

In her favor: In her first screen role, she radiates the charisma of a movie goddess, which is entirely appropriate for her magnetic character. And when she suffers, so do we.

Then again: Her horrific flogging scene may be precisely the moment voters turn their DVD player off.

julia Roberts

"August: Osage County"

Role: Barb Weston, the pinched, resentful eldest child of a very nasty mama.

In her favor: Her key moment, a roll-on-the-floor rumble with Meryl Streep, is undeniably memorable …

Then again: … but not in a good way. Her oh-so-sassy attitude and ripe dialogue ("Eat the fish!") will fuel more drag tributes than awards clips.

june squibb


Role: Kate Grant, the sniping, foul-mouthed wife of a dreamer who thinks he's won a fortune.

In her favor: Her Mrs. Claus appearance sets you up for the sucker punch of her salty, bitter dialogue. She walks off with every scene she's in.

Then again: Older actresses don't often score in this category: There have been only 12 winners over 50 in 77 years.

sally hawkins

"Blue Jasmine"

Role: Ginger, the salt-of-the-earth sister of Cate Blanchett's flighty socialite.

In her favor: As foil to the brittle Jasmine, her warmth practically radiates off the screen. And she benefits from the Woody Allen touch.

Then again: She was largely ignored in the precursor awards —not an optimistic sign.

adÈle exarchopoulos

"Blue Is the Warmest Color"

Role: Adele, a French teen experiencing first love and heartbreak with an older woman.

In her favor: Her performance is emotionally and sexually graphic.

Then again: This subtle performance doesn't shout "LOOK AT ME ACTING!"