Why she’ll win: Her scene with Meryl Streep in which she talks about how her son is beaten at home and might be better staying at a school where he could continue to be sexually abused (if we are to believe Streep) creates the film’s most effective emotional punch. She doesn’t back down with Streep and makes more effective points than Philip Seymour Hoffman ever could.

Maybe not: Despite it being highly effective, the scene is only 11 minutes long, and voters will have to be willing to accept the fact that she is more worthy than others — such as Amy Adams or Marisa Tomei — who are in many scenes of respective films.

Critical quote: “If anyone comes close to stealing the picture from Streep and Hoffman it is the superb Viola Davis as Donald’s mother, Mrs. Miller,” says Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times.