Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.

Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.

The tightest race in this year’s Academy Awards is in the Best Actress category. The two finest young American actresses face off. They are so similar, this death match may benefit a third party.

The breakdown, as follows:

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. Zero Dark Thirty is the pinnacle of Chastain’s ascending curve (let’s just forget about Mama). As Maya, the dodged CIA agent who almost singlehandedly located Osama Bin Laden, Chastain built an entirely believable character, who was compelling even when involved with less than savory activities. While her part is less showy than the other four candidates, the main factor playing against her is the backlash her movie is enduring. A shame. Odds: 3 to 1.

Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. The close to a frontrunner this race has, Lawrence is strong in Silver Linings Playbook, but her performance doesn’t come close to her work in Winter’s Bone, for which Jennifer got her first Academy Award nomination. Alas, SLP has the goodwill of the acting branch, the biggest guild in Hollywood. Odds: Even.

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. Riva is absolutely phenomenal in Amour, as she embodied every stage of physical and mental deterioration flawlessly. While the Academy tends to favor English-spoken parts, the sentimental factor may turn the tide in her favor. This race’s dark horse. Odds: 2 to 1.

Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Let’s be serious. Quvenzhané shot Beasts when she was seven. A seven-year old doesn’t have the tools to build a performance. She is just being herself, following specific instructions from director Benh Zeitlin. Not only she doesn’t deserve to win, it’s a wasted nomination. Also, there is no Tooth Fairy. Odds: 25 to 1.

Naomi Watts in The Impossible. Watts is by far the best element in this otherwise forgettable catastrophe movie, but her portrait is so broad it’s just not in the same league. That said, she has paid her dues, and a career-based Oscar wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Odds: 10 to 1.

Should Win: Chastain. Will win: Lawrence.