On the afternoon of Friday, 12.2 — hours after seeing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo at Sony — I posted a Best Actress evaluation piece that began with my enthusiastic response to Rooney Mara‘s performance as Lisbeth Salander. She was so fierce and penetrating, I figured, that she had to be a late-inning Best Actress contender. In my own book that’s still true, but things have changed over the last 11 days, and now…who knows?

Mara Rooney in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The tight embargo enforcement and the general feeling that Sony doesn’t see Dragon Tattoo as an award-calibre film has created a feeling that the air is seeping out of the Tattoo tires, awards-wise, including Mara’s own.

It just goes to show how quickly things change in this racket. The wind shifts direction, the temperature cools down, the current loses strength. Anyway, here’s how I saw it way back when:

“I don’t think I’m breaking the embargo to say that Rooney Mara is fierce and touching and diamond-hard in David Fincher‘s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Yes, her Lisbeth Salander character is familiar due to Noomi Rapace having played her three times in the three original Girl flicks but Mara gives a richer, fuller performance, I feel. Her manner is curt and chilly but her eyes are swimming with feeling. She’s a heartbreaker, and she’s tough and resourceful — the rock upon which the film rests.

“In a phrase, I think it’s highly likely that Mara will land a Best Actress nomination”…Update: Nope — not likely at all. A slender chance, at best.

“By my sights, the locks are Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn) and Viola Davis (The Help). The top actresses fighting it out for the other two slots are Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Charlize Theron (Young Adult) and Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin). And possibly Mara, which would make four.

“Close is seen as a weak sister in some circles because her performance is so restrained and still and minmal. On the other hand her presumed Best Actress nomination has long been seen as a career tribute (i.e., the last 30 years) plus Close has been glad-handing a lot of people at a lot of events on both coasts. Theron is seen as vulnerable because her Young Adult character, Mavis Gary, is acutely dislikable; others feel that she gives an exceptionally ballsy and blazing performance because of the dislikable-ness. Tilda Swinton‘s We Need To Talk About Kevin performance is a little odd and “who knows?” She plays a writer who gives birth to an evil demon who needs to be thrown off a pier in a burlap bag filled with rocks at an early age. I don’t see it.

“And yet many feel that Theron and Swinton give livelier, more vivid and graspable performances than Close does, despite Close having the sweep of history and present-day politics behind her.

“Close has been on thin ice since the start of the week,” says In Contention‘s Kris Tapley. “I think it’s a strong performance so I wouldn’t treat it as if it ‘has to go.’ And the category itself is fraught with great performances in mediocre films (though I think Young Adult is a great film, and the exception). So the film itself doesn’t really hold her down. The problem — as far as standing out this time of year is concerned — is that Close’s is an internalized portrayal. And you have to have a ‘show them’ component to register for a large group of people like the Academy.

“That qualification out of the way, yes, Close is in a precarious spot. The thing Theron could have against her, as you intimate, is how unlikable her character is. Viola Davis, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams seem assured. And it’s not just Mara looking for room. Indeed, Tilda Swinton hasn’t gone away. But I don’t see anyone outside of those seven cracking in.”

Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg disagrees. He thinks that Martha Marcy May Marlene‘s Elizabeth Olsen and Like Crazy‘s Felicity Jones have contention heat. That’s not very likely, I feel. Feinberg knows that Academy voters tend to let one ingenue in among a typical Best Actress assortment, and that they’re not likely to let in three.”

Right now I think it’s Streep, Davis, Williams, Theron and either Swinton or Mara…but more likely Swinton. Close is weakening, I feel.