Is July too early to be predicting who'll be in the running for next year's Best Actress Oscar?

Not when we're getting our first glimpses of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in 'The Iron Lady' and Glenn Close as a Victorian woman passing as a man in 'Albert Nobbs.'

Can there be any doubt these two will be going head to head at the 2012 Academy Awards? The race will very likely come down to these two powerhouses, but we've got a pretty good idea who else might get a nomination, even though most of their films haven't even opened yet.

Read on for our best guesses for the 2012 Best Actress race.

Though most of these films have yet to be released, expectations are high for the performances from this roster of leading ladies. Who knows what dark horses will emerge before the end of 2011, but even with five more months to go, we're confident we'll see most of these women on Oscar night 2012.

Meryl Streep, 'The Iron Lady'
Oscar stats: 13 Best Actress nominations, 1 win; 3 Supporting Actress noms, 1 win
Release date: Dec. 16, 2011
From the moment we heard she was going to play Margaret Thatcher, her 17th Oscar nomination was a lock. Although she's got two Oscars under her belt, the woman most people regard as the greatest living actress hasn't won one since 1983. That's nearly 30 years, people. If there was ever a time to give her that third statuette, this is (very probably) it.

Glenn Close, 'Albert Nobbs'
Oscar stats: 2 Best Actress nominations, 3 Supporting Actress noms, 0 wins
Release date: TBD
Cross dressing won an Oscar for Hilary Swank in her breakout role in 'Boys Don't Cry,' but Barbra Streisand got no love when she directed herself in 'Yentl.' But Close seems like a sure thing in this personal project she's labored for years to bring to the screen. And she hasn't had a nomination since 1989. C'mon, she's due!


Michelle Williams, 'Meek's Cutoff'
Oscar stats: 1 Best Actress nomination, 1 Supporting Actress nom, 0 wins
Release date: April 8, 2011
It took a few years for voters to get over the fact she got her start on 'Dawson's Creek,' but after acclaimed turns in 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Blue Valentine,' they're finally ready to admit she's earned their respect. Back with another well-reviewed indie as a strong-willed pioneer facing down injustice, she's got a solid shot.


Rachel Weisz, 'The Whistleblower'
Oscar stats: 1 Supporting Actress nomination, 1 win
Release date: Aug. 5, 2011
Oscar loves a whistle-blower, whether it's Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront,' Russell Crowe in 'The Insider' or Weisz in her Oscar-winning role in 'The Constant Gardener.' In this film, based on a true story, she's a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia who outs the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal. She also might score with 'Dream House,' her film with new hubby Daniel Craig.

Kirsten Dunst, 'Melancholia'
Release date: Nov. 4, 2011
Dunst won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Fest, but will anyone go see this film after director Lars von Trier's controversial (if not at all serious) comments that he's a fan of Hitler? Dunst is definitely on a comeback, but von Trier's actresses tend to rack up more awards overseas than stateside: Emily Watson in 'Breaking the Waves' is the only actress to score an Oscar nomination for one of his films.

Mia Wasikowska, 'Jane Eyre'
Release date: March 11, 2011
The Academy always smiles kindly on an ingenue, especially when she's in a period film with a literary pedigree. Wasikowska's winning performance as proud but penniless governess Jane Eyre, as well as great work in last year's 'The Kids Are All Right' and a role opposite Close in 'Albert Nobbs,' likely won't go unnoticed.


Rooney Mara, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'
Release date: Dec. 21, 2011
David Fincher's take on this Swedish best-selling mystery may be far too dark for Academy voters, but if Mara gets anything like the raves Noomi Rapace did for her performance as punk heroine Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish originals, then Mara may well be looking at her first Oscar nomination.