Oscar season kicked off in January of 2012 when "Beasts of the Southern Wild" wowed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival. Thirteen months later, "Beasts" will compete for a host of Oscars at the 85th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 24. With awards season mercifully coming to a close, HuffPost Entertainment is here with a preview of the major categories at the Oscars 2013 ceremony. Next up: picking the Best Actress winner.
Best Actress Nominees: Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Silver Linings Playboook"), Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour"), Quvenzhane Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Naomi Watts ("The Impossible")
The Race Thus Far: Tightening up. Lawrence -- the 22-year-old wunderkind with two Best Actress nominations in three years -- is the presumed favorite, having won Best Actress at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. That, however, doesn't mean she's a lock: Chastain also won at the Golden Globes (the Hollywood Foreign Press splits comedy and drama), and gives one of the year's most critically beloved performances in "Zero Dark Thirty." Then there's Riva: The "Amour" star turns 86 on Oscar night, and her win at the BAFTA Awards had many pundits jumping off the Lawrence bandwagon. (Oscar experts Pete Hammond and Steve Pond both switched to Riva last week.)
The Potential Spoiler(s): Well, Riva. It's hard to imagine Lawrence losing this award right now -- the slow shift to Riva seems more a result of Oscar season boredom than anything really substantial -- but if she does, go with the "Amour" star over Chastain. If that happens, expect "Silver Linings Playbook" director David O. Russell to look like this.
Best Actress Winner Prediction : Lawrence.
In the mood for actual data and evidence instead of speculation and conjecture? The Huffington Post Oscar Predictions Dashboard can be found here.