Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet Oscar front-runners

Thu Feb 5, 2009 7:44am EST
 
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By Ray Richmond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In a year when "Slumdog" is heading locomotive-like to the top of the Oscars (unless a recent controversy about its child performers derails it), the two actress categories remain wide open. So who will win and why?

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

If justice has anything to do with it, this should be Kate Winslet's year. After all, Winslet is among the most admired actresses on the planet and is currently running zero for five in her previous shots at the Oscar.

But justice and the Academy have a long history of going their separate ways, as Glenn Close, Alfred Hitchcock and Barbara Stanwyck could attest. Plus, would it be all that just to reward a career rather than an individual performance?

If that's the way the Academy thinks, it could go for any of the five nominees, who this year include Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") and Meryl Streep ("Doubt"), along with Winslet herself ("The Reader").

Previous wins would indicate that Streep and Winslet are the front-runners.

Winslet has already scooped up a mantleful of baubles for both "The Reader" and "Revolutionary Road," and her failure to get an Oscar nomination for the latter -- almost certainly because the Academy doesn't allow an actress to receive two nominations within the same category in the same year -- means that she'll have a lot of sympathy on her side. But there's a snag: Winslet's previous wins for "Reader" came in the supporting category. For reasons known only to its acting branch, the Academy decided to give her more votes in the lead category. Winslet is untested here. While the odds still favor her, don't rule out the chance of a loss.

As for Streep, true, she won the leading-lady nod at the SAG Awards, but she lost at the Globes when Winslet edged her out for "Road." And Streep has lost before: She's only won two Oscars in 14 previous nominations.   Continued...

 
<p>Meryl Streep holds up her award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for "Doubt" at the 15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 25, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>