It's probably been said too much at this point, but 2014, at least in terms of potential Oscar nominees, has been very thin for lead actresses. Call it a byproduct of an industry that doesn't seem overly concerned with stories featyring strong female characters (despite the notion that they don't make money having been summarily dispelled), or certainly with finding females in key creative positions. It's simply slim pickings this year.

Nevertheless, that perceived lack of competition sort of makes the Best Actress Oscar category a potential breeding ground for outside-the-box considerations, and indeed, a number of distributors are certainly looking to seize room to maneuver here as the season continues to take shape. The race is so unpredictable that a strong contender for the win may have arrived late in the game and without warning.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves yet. There are a number of quality performances, expected and atypical, to pore over first. So we've taken as deep a dive as we realistically can in such a wide-open year. Click through the gallery story below to see what the field looks like and feel free to offer up your thoughts in the comments section.

Kristopher Tapley has covered the film awards landscape for over a decade. He founded In Contention in 2005. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Times of London and Variety. He begs you not to take any of this too seriously.