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Sandra Bullock
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Though she’s a proven commodity with romantic comedies and flat-out laffers, Bullock is most often taken seriously for awards when she plays in dramas. That would fit the bill here, where she assays the widow of Tom Hanks, who dies in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Jessica Chastain
“Tree of Life,” “Take Shelter”

In terms of quantity and quality, nobody made a bigger splash this year than Chastain. So good in so much, it’s difficult to pinpoint what Academy voters may think is her best work. Playing wives of complicated men in “Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter,” she raised the stature of those pics considerably.

Judi Dench
“J. Edgar”

With an Oscar win and five other noms, Dench is on the Acad’s short list of women we adore. Though her pivotal role in the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic is relatively small, tell that to those who lost to her when she won supporting actress for “Shakespeare in Love.”

Judy Greer
“The Descendants”

Although Greer doesn’t appear until halfway through the film, she makes the most of her material, especially when she forces a bitter goodbye to George Clooney’s dying wife. Casting directors take note: Greer can clearly deliver more than just funny.

Carey Mulligan

Mulligan bares all, literally, in trying to get her “Shame” brother, Michael Fassbender, to accept her for who she is: A free-spirited lounge singer who is often forced to live off the generosity of others.

Amy Ryan
“Win Win”

Though Tom McCarthy’s wonderful film came out in March, which is eons ago in kudos circles, Ryan’s perf as Paul Giamatti’s devoted and strong-willed wife shouldn’t be forgotten. The Gotham-based indie and TV darling never fails to impress.

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