Jessica Chastain in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Eye on the Oscars 2013: The Actress - Lead Actress

Why she will win: Very much an actor’s actor, Chastain shoulders one of the few best picture nominees expressly constructed around a strong female protagonist. Her terse, flinty performance should surprise voters who remember her chiefly for her nominated role in last year’s “The Help.”

Best scene: Her bone-dry delivery of the line “I’m the motherfucker who found this place,” as she faces down an all-male squad of CIA superiors, typifies the performance’s unblinking strength. It’s already on its way to becoming a pop culture meme.

Critic’s quote: “Chastain doesn’t give a star performance but something braver and less ego-driven,” says Ty Burr, Washington Post.

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