As is typically the case with the supporting and lead roles, male performances are overloaded while female performances struggle to find enough quality roles. That is a testament more to Hollywood than it is to actresses these days, as there are plenty of fine actresses but not enough roles.
There are four certainties this year, and a toss up fifth spot for Best Supporting Actress. The most certain bet you can find out there is Anne Hathaway pulling in her nomination for Les Miserables. Her performance is a bright spot in an otherwise muddy picture. Close on her heels has to be Amy Adams, an Academy darling, fer her role as a Lady Macbeth type in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. She is pivotal as a behind-the-scenes manipulator of The Cause. Sally Field is a sure bet for her role as Mary Todd Lincoln, the manic first lady in Spielberg's Lincoln. She is fascinating as one of the most fascinating first lady's in history.
Fourth here should be Helen Hunt for her role as a sexual surrogate for John Hawke's in The Sessions. Hunt has been away from the spotlight as an actress for a while, and this should serve as a nice welcome back to the Oscar field. This leaves the fifth spot, and a slew of lesser roles vying to fill out the category. Some may think Nicole Kidman will be recognized for her turn as a sleazy southerner in The Paperboy, but the film was met with poor reviews and little fanfare. Roles from Helena Bonham Carter and Samantha Barks in Les Miserables will be overlooked for Hathaway. This leaves a few seasoned vets, Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Judi Dench in Skyfall. I would go with Dench, another critical darling, but I think this fifth spot belongs to Maggie Smith.
Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables
Amy Adams - The Master
Sally Field - Lincoln
Helen Hunt - The Sessions
Maggie Smith - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The field is absolutely loaded. If I had my choice I would expand this category to possibly seven deserving nominees. Of course there are a handful at the top, and two or three fighting for the last couple of nominations. Tommy Lee Jones is a shoe in for a nomination in Lincoln, and deservedly so. For a few months he seemed to be the ultimate winner, but Leonardo DiCaprio may have something to say about things before all is said and done. DiCaprio lights up the screen as Calvin Candide in Django Unchained, and should be the favorite now. Philip Seymour Hoffman should pick up a nomination for The Master as the leader of The Cause (not to mention a sexual and morally confused man). Fourth in line is Alan Arkin, playing the fiery producer of Argo in Ben Affleck's drama. I personally don't see anything deserving in his role, but it has the acclaim to carry him to a nomination.
And here I stand, conflicted. Robert DeNiro delivers one of his best performances in over a decade as Pat Senior in Silver Linings Playbook. But if he takes this fifth spot, that leaves Matthew McConaughey out in the cold in a year which saw McConaughey return to the greatness I always knew he had. He has returned with a vengeance as an aging stripper in Magic Mike and a sociopathic cop in Killer Joe, and he seems to be staying on track in 2013. I would absolutely love him getting this fifth nomination, so my emotion will go ahead and predict him as such.
Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
Leonardo DiCaprio - Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
Alan Arkin - Argo
Matthew McConaughey - Magic Mike