Elizabeth Taylor? Meryl Streep? Frances McDormand? Our chief critic picks a winner from his five nominees – and reveals who you chose as your champion
The Academy award for best actress confers a burdensome glamour on its recipient, in most cases a career-high but sometimes a career-end, a longed-for prize that nothing can top, making its winner a pampered jewel in a very male prestige display. Like almost everything about the Academy Awards, it rewards tragedy rather than comedy, and grandiloquence rather than subtlety, so there is something operatic in lining up a five-part fantasy league of the best actress winners. But these are some of the most glorious and intensely pleasurable performances it is possible to watch.