Greta Gerwig "20th Century Women"
Naomie Harris "Moonlight"
Aja Naomi King "The Birth of a Nation"
Kristen Stewart "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"
Michelle Williams "Manchester By the Sea"
Other Contenders - Lupita Nyong'o "Queen of Katwe", Nicole Kidman "Lion", Rooney Mara "Lion", Rachel Weisz "The Light Between Oceans", Laura Dern "The Founder", Dakota Fanning "American Pastoral", Elle Fanning "20th Century Women", Jennifer Jason Leigh "LBJ", Katey Segal "Bleed for This", Rosemarie DeWitt "La La Land", Octavia Spencer "Hidden Figures", Julianne Moore "Maggie's Plan", Amy Adams "Nocturnal Animals", Isla Fisher "Nocturnal Animals", Laura Linney "Noctural Animals", Laura Linney "Sully", Kate Winslet "Collateral Beauty", Keira Knightley "Collateral Beauty", Helen Mirren "Collateral Beauty", Mia Wasikowska "HHhH", Rebecca Ferguson "The Girl on the Train", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "Miss Sloane", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "The Whole Truth", Meg Tilley "War Machine", Lizzy Caplan "Allied", Carla Gugino "The Space Between Us", Bryce Dallas Howard "Gold", Melissa Leo "Snowden" Shailene Woodley "Snowden", Olivia Colman "The Lobster", Helen Mirren "Eye in the Sky"
Commentary - I think the two that could duke it out for the top prize are Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart. Williams is already a known quantity, and is already getting rave reviews for yet another Oscar-worthy performance. She also has the overdue factor going for her, with several nominations under her belt. But Kristen Stewart is coming in fast. After years of playing the mopey teenager, Stewart has finally blossomed into a great actress, last year's Clouds of Sils Maria earning a lot of praise. This year, she is in Ang Lee's latest, and she, and film look fantastic. Then, right now at least, I am banking on three first timers to crash the party. 20th Century Women looks great and both Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig could get in, but of the two I am going for Gerwig. She has been flirting with awards success for a while now, and this might finally be the project that gets notices from Academy voters. Moonlight is an interesting project with a lot of intrigue, and Naomie Harris has a lot of roles under her belt. Finally, The Birth of a Nation could be the Sundance project that really explodes with Oscar nominations, and if they really like it, look out for newcomer Aja Naomi King, who is getting a lot of buzz. I've pulled Lupita Nyong'o out for two reasons. One she is straddling the lead/supporting line, two, Mira Nair has had a lot of big projects flop in recent years, so I am waiting on reviews. Rachel Weisz could return with The Light Between Oceans, which is not getting as much buzz as it should. Laura Dern plays opposite Michael Keaton in The Founder, Dakota Fanning opposite Ewan McGregor in American Pastoral, and Katey Segal has a meaty role apparently in Bleed for this. Recent winners and nominees hoping to get back in include Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianne Moore, Melissa Leo, and Helen Mirren. There are groups of great actors in several films, and they really need to be seen to decide which, if any, will rise to the top. Of course I'm talking about Collateral Beauty, Noctural Animals, and Lion. Finally, watch out for Olivia Colman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Rebecca Ferguson, Lizzy Caplan, Carla Gugino, Bryce Dallas Howard, Meg Tilly, and Mia Wasikowska in a competitive race so far.