(See also: "Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Actor" and "Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Picture, Best Director.") Compared to the vibrant Best Actor field, the 2014 Academy Awards' Best Actress category looks somewhat anemic. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of quantity. Whereas ten actors could be called strong competitors for the Oscar 2014 shortlist, only five actresses can be considered truly strong candidates for this year's Best Actress shortlist. Besides these five, there are three unlikely runners-up and a handful of long shots -- and we mean "long" as in "light-years-away long." (See also: "Best Supporting Actress 2014 Oscar Predictions: Jennifer Lawrence and/or Scarlett Johansson to Make Oscar History?")
Note: Exact SAG Award and Academy Award matches are actually less common than you might think for the reasons mentioned in our previous Oscar 2014 predictions post (see link in the paragraph above). For instance, last year Marion Cotillard and Helen Mirren were both shortlisted for the Best Actress SAG Awards for, respectively, Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone and Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock, whereas at the Oscars Mirren and Cotillard were replaced by Emmanuelle Riva for Michael Haneke's Amour and Quvenzhané Wallis for Behn Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild.
The previous year, Tilda Swinton was a Best Actress SAG Award nominee for Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, whereas the Academy went for Rooney Mara in David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And the year before that, Hilary Swank was up for the Best Actress SAG Award for Tony Goldwyn's Conviction, but the Academy's Actors Branch voters opted for Michelle Williams in Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine.
Having said all that, our 2014 Oscar predictions for the Best Actress category match all five of the SAG Awards' nominees. The last time that happened was four years ago, when the nominees were Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Gabourey Sidibe, Helen Mirren, and Carey Mulligan. Both Bullock and Streep should return this year. See below (all lists in alphabetical order).
Oscar 2014 Predictions: Best Actress
Cate Blanchett for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity; Judi Dench for Stephen Frears' Philomena; Meryl Streep for John Wells' August: Osage County; Emma Thompson for John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks.
Long shots: Bérénice Bejo for Asghar Farhadi's The Past / Le Passé; Julie Delpy for Richard Linklater's Before Midnight; Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said; Greta Gerwig for Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha; Brie Larson for Destin Daniel Cretton's Short Term 12; Carey Mulligan for either Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby or Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis.
Best Actress Oscar 2014: Academy to honor veteran actresses
If our Oscar 2014 Best Actress predictions are on target, the Academy's Actors Branch will select five Academy Award veterans. In fact, all five likely Best Actress nominees have already taken home -- at least -- one Academy Award. Also worth noting, all five are over 40 years old.
- Cate Blanchett has five previous Oscar nominations: Best Actress for Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth (1998); Best Supporting Actress for Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004), in which she played four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn; Best Supporting Actress for Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal (2006); Best Actress for Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007); and Best Supporting Actress for Todd Haynes' I'm Not There (2007), in which she played -- sort of -- Bob Dylan. Blanchett won for The Aviator.
- Sandra Bullock has one previous Oscar nomination, for John Lee Hancock's 2009 blockbuster The Blind Side. Bullock became that year's sentimental favorite, and ended up taking the home the Best Actress Oscar statuette.
- Judi Dench has six previous Oscar nominations: Best Actress for John Madden's Mrs. Brown (1997); Best Supporting Actress for Madden's Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Lasse Hallström's Chocolat (2000); and Best Actress for Richard Eyre's Iris (2001), Stephen Frears' Mrs. Henderson Presents, and Eyre's Notes on a Scandal (2006). Dench won for Shakespeare in Love. Note: Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett have twice been nominated in the same year (1998, 2006), but in different acting categories; if they're both shortlisted this year, that'll mark the first time they'll be competing with one another.
- Meryl Streep has 17 previous Oscar nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) and Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer (1979); Best Actress for Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Alan J. Pakula's Sophie's Choice (1982), Mike Nichols' Silkwood (1983), Sydney Pollack's Out of Africa (1985), Hector Babenco's Ironweed (1987), Fred Schepisi's A Cry in the Dark (1988), Nichols' Postcards from the Edge (1990), Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County (1995), Carl Franklin's One True Thing (1998), and Wes Craven's Music of the Heart (1999); as Best Supporting Actress for Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002); and as Best Actress for David Frankel's The Devil Wears Prada (2006), John Patrick Shanley's Doubt (2008), Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (2009), and Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady (2011). Streep won Oscars for Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie's Choice, and The Iron Lady.
- Emma Thompson has four previous Oscar nominations in the acting categories: Best Actress for James Ivory's Howards End (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993); Best Supporting Actress for Jim Sheridan's In the Name of the Father (1993); and Best Actress for Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995). Thompson won for Howards End, and also took home an Oscar for her adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility. If she does get nominated, Thompson will be returning to the Oscar fold after an 18-year absence.
Meryl Streep to break Oscar record?
In case Meryl Streep gets nominated for August: Osage County, she'll be breaking the current Oscar record in the acting categories. Who holds that record? Huh ... Meryl Streep herself: 17 nominations.
If Streep wins -- which is highly unlikely, but never underestimate The Weinstein Company -- she'll be taking home her fourth Oscar statuette. In case that happens, she'll tie with Katharine Hepburn as the top Oscar winner in the acting categories.
For the record, Hepburn's Oscar wins -- all in the Best Actress category -- were for the following movies: Lowell Sherman's Morning Glory (for the period 1932-33); Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967); Anthony Harvey's The Lion in Winter (1968), tied with Barbra Streisand for William Wyler's Funny Girl; and Mark Rydell's On Golden Pond (1981).
Meryl Streep August: Osage County image: The Weinstein Company.