Meryl vs. Oprah. It’s the matchup that likely has the 2014 Oscar producers dreaming of Nielsen ratings, as Americans tentatively turn out to see perennial Oscar champ Meryl Streep go toe-to-toe with the Queen of All Media -- Oprah Winfrey – in this year’s Best Supporting Actress category.

Granted, they both have to earn nominations for their respective films, which at the moment seems like a strong possibility. We’ve at least had the luxury of watching Ms. Winfrey in ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler,’ and she gives a grounded, multi-faceted performance as Forest Whitaker’s sounding board during some of our nation’s most troubling times. It isn’t a showy role, but it’s one that should earn her Oscar’s attention when nominations are announced early next year. Which actresses might join Ms. Winfrey? Let’s lay our cards on the table below:

  • 1

    Jennifer Lawrence, ‘American Hustle’

    I believe in Jennifer Lawrence. I believe in her talent, and I believe in the spell that she has cast over the Academy. We’ll need to see David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle,’ but at the moment, I believe that Lawrence will continue to mesmerize, and  distance herself from a strong ensemble that also includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner. Lawrence should fall into a Supporting category, and though she won last year for Russell’s ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ Oscar just might like having her around, and a nom would ensure that she’s still a major player on Oscar eve.

    Annapurna Pictures
  • 2

    Carey Mulligan, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

    Have you seen Mulligan spitting nails at Oscar Isaac in the deliciously disgusted trailers for ‘Inside Llewyn Davis?’ Go watch them and tell me you’ve seen a better portrayal of a woman done wrong by an artist. She’s at the end of her rope with this deadbeat, and Mulligan looks like she’ll be able to turn that angst and frustration into an awards-worthy role. The young actress, who recently was nominated for ‘An Education,’ also did outstanding work opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Great Gatsby,’ but it’s the Coens’ latest that should have her in the discussion come Oscar time.

    CBS Films
  • 3

    Octavia Spencer, ‘Fruitvale Station’

    I was moved by Michael B. Jordan’s performance in Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station.’ It’s a tragic turn, playing a man doomed by fate. But I was blown away by Octavia Spencer’s raw power. Playing Jordan’s mother, she only gets a handful of scenes to convey a series of important emotions – disappointment at her son’s wayward decisions; hope that he’s back on the right track; quiet devastation when she loses him – and she nails each one. If ‘Fruitvale’ builds into a powerful Oscar contender, similar to last year’s ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ then Spencer can (and should) contend in the Supporting Actress category.

    The Weinstein Company
  • 4

    Meryl Streep, ‘August: Osage County’

    We’re not just putting her here because she’s Meryl Streep. We’re putting her here because, on paper, ‘August’ has all of the elements Oscar loves to see in a drama. It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The ensemble is loaded with marquee talent, from Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch to Chris Cooper. And then there is Streep, playing the manipulative mother pulling everyone’s strings during a reunion. The part should deliver an Oscar nom, if Streep can nail the performance. And when has that ever been a problem?

    The Weinstein Company
  • 5

    Oprah Winfrey, ‘Lee Daniels' The Butler’

    Part of me thinks Oprah Winfrey can get nominated for ‘The Butler’ simply because she’s Oprah. Her popularity can boost the ratings of a struggling television broadcast (and don’t think decisions like that don’t play into the nomination process). But then I saw ‘The Butler,’ and realized Winfrey’s quite good as Gloria Gaines, wife to the title character who provides a support system – and a motivator – at home, away from the White House. Winfrey earns a spot at this table. Now we’ll just see whom the Academy puts around her.

    The Weinstein Company
  • 6

    Honorable Mention

    Viola Davis, ‘Prisoners;’ Cameron Diaz, ‘The Counselor;’ Jennifer Garner, ‘Dallas Buyers Club;’ Naomie Harris, ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom;’ Sally Hawkins, ‘Blue Jasmine;’ Catherine Keener, ‘Captain Phillips;’ Jessica Lange, ‘Therese;’ Melissa Leo, ‘Prisoners;’ Juliette Lewis, ‘August: Osage County;’ Rooney Mara, ‘Her;’ Margo Martindale, ‘August: Osage County;’ Lupita Nyong'o, ’12 Years a Slave;’ Zoe Saldana, ‘Out of the Furance;’ Kristin Scott Thomas, ‘Only God Forgives;’ June Squibb,’ Nebraska;’ Emily Watson, ‘The Book Thief’

    Sony Pictures Classics