Clockwise, from top left: Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Glenn Close and (center) Michelle Williams
Corbis, FilmMagic, Celebrity Photo, Landov, REX USA
02/24/2012 AT 05:00 PM EST
This year's race for Best Actress is a nail-biter, with some of Hollywood's most accomplished stars vying for the golden statuette.
Meryl Streep, who won the Golden Globe
for her spot-on performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady
, could be seen as a frontrunner. After all, with 17 previous Oscar nominations and two wins, Streep is Hollywood royalty.
But she's by no means a shoo-in. Street's pal, Viola Davis, won the Screen Actor's Guild Award
for best actress for her role in the wildly popular film The Help
, and will be giving Streep a run for her money.
Then there's Glenn Close, another Hollywood legend, who is nominated for her studied, gender-bending performance in Albert Nobbs
. In Close's favor: Everybody knows the Academy loves women who push the boundaries of beauty and gender.
The dark horses in the race are newcomer Rooney Mara
, nominated for her brooding performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
, and Michelle Williams
for her uncanny portrayal of one of Hollywood's most iconic stars, Marilyn Monroe, in My Week with Marilyn
The 84th Academy Awards will air live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.