Blythe Danner Becomes First Official Oscar Contender Of The Season, But She Faces Some Stiff Competition

The campaigning for the 2016 Academy Awards has officially begun. What exactly marks the official start of the Oscar race, you ask? That would when the first awards screener is sent out to Academy voters: this year that honor goes to summer indie darling I'll See You In My Dreams , starring Blythe Danner, who is putting herself in contention for the Best Actress race. (Despite having given birth to Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow, Danner herself has never been nominated for an Oscar.) Being first out of the gate is never a bad idea; Danner's performance has the advantage of sticking in voters' minds before they get inundated in the mountains of screeners that will flood their mailboxes this fall. But it's also no guarantee of Oscar success.

Last year, the first screener sent out was for the Chris Evans sci-fi flick Snowpiercer; the year before that it was the Matthew McConaughey drama Mud: neither film ended up landing a single nomination. Occasionally, the early bird gambit does pay off. In 2005, the first screener sent to voters was for the indie dramedy Junebug, which landed then-unknown actress Amy Adams her first Oscar nom, quickly launching her to superstardom.

Despite being the first actress to announce her campaign, Danner will face some stiff competition if she hopes to land her first-ever nomination. She'll be going toe-to-toe with previous Oscar winners like Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Sandra Bullock, Tilda Swinton, Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Juliette Binoche, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith. Here, in order, are the five likeliest women to be nominated in the Lead Actress category at the 2016 Academy Awards.

5. Lily Tomlin, Grandma

Previous Oscar wins: None

Previous Oscar noms: 1976 Supporting Actress (Nashville)

Grandma marks Tomlin's first leading role in a feature film since she co-starred with Bette Midler in 1988's Big Business. Can this film about a an elderly lesbian embarking on a road trip with her pregnant daughter, a critical darling at this year's Sundance festival, finally land this beloved but under-awarded actress the recognition she so deserves?

4. Julianne Moore, Freeheld

Previous Oscar wins: 2015 Lead Actress (Still Alice)

Previous Oscar noms: 2003 Lead Actress (Far From Heaven); 2003 Supporting Actress (The Hours); 2000 Lead Actress (The End Of The Affair); 1998 Supporting Actress (Boogie Nights)

Only four actors in history have won back-to-back acting Oscars: Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Jason Robards. Moore, last year's Best Actress winner for the devastating Alzheimer's drama Still Alice, is aiming to become the fifth with her performance in this year's devastating biopic Freeheld , about a lesbian police officer's legal battle to have her domestic partnership recognized before she dies of terminal cancer.

3. Cate Blanchett, Carol

Previous Oscar wins: 2014 Lead Actress (Blue Jasmine); 2005 Supporting Actress (The Aviator)

Previous Oscar noms: 2008 Lead Actress (Elizabeth: The Golden Years); 2008 Supporting Actress (I'm Not There); 2007 Supporting Actress (Notes On A Scandal); 1999 Lead Actress (Elizabeth)

The winner from last year will likely face off against the winner from two years ago in the battle for the crown. Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price Of Salt, Carol tells the story of an older married woman who carries on an affair with a beautiful young shop clerk, played by Rooney Mara. The Weinstein Company has yet to decide whether they'll submit Mara as Lead or Supporting; if it's the former, her name is likely to emerge somewhere in the top 10.

2. Carey Mulligan, Suffragette

Previous Oscar wins: None

Previous Oscar noms: 2010 Lead Actress (An Education)

This film about women's fight for the right to vote in early 20th century England is bound to be packed with incredible performances from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, and Queen Meryl herself as real-life suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. (It's also the only film in major Oscar contention both written and directed by women.) But it's Mulligan, previously nominated for An Education, who's likely to get the bulk of awards chatter as working-wife-turned-early-feminist Maud.

1. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Previous Oscar wins: None.

Previous Oscar noms: None.

Has anyone ever had as explosive a breakout year as Alicia Vikander? By the end of 2015, the 26-year-old Swedish actress will have appeared in six major feature films: sci-fi film Ex Machina, spy flick The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Tom Stoppard-scripted period piece Tulip Fever, Bradley Cooper cooking drama Burnt, literary adaptation The Light Between Oceans, and biopic The Danish Girl.

In fact, if Danner hopes to break into the Best Actress race, she'll have to compete against not just Vikander's role in The Danish Girl, but also her performances in Tulip Fever, The Light Between Oceans, and Ex Machina, Can Danner pull it off? Watch the trailer for I'll See You In My Dreams and decide for yourself.

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Images: The Weinstein Company, Summit Entertainment; Sony Pictures Classics; Focus Features (2)