Streep, Bullock provide rare Oscar suspense

Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:10am EST
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By Stephen Farber

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Meryl or Sandra?

The race for best actress is proving to be one of the tightest and most interesting head-to-head matchups in recent Oscar history.

Will the Academy embrace Meryl Streep, whose record 16th nomination comes for her remarkable portrayal of chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia"? Or will voters prefer Sandra Bullock, who garnered her very first nomination for channeling real-life Good Samaritan Leigh Anne Tuohy?

Early in the awards season, Streep was the front-runner to nab her third Oscar and her first since 1983 (when she won for "Sophie's Choice"). Her performance as Child delighted audiences and critics, and she won the best actress prize from the New York Film Critics.

Bullock, by contrast, came from, well, the blind side. She was not included on any early lists of contenders and did not win any early awards from major critics' groups.

"No one was talking about 'The Blind Side' -- or about 'Crazy Heart,' either," says Bonnie Arnold, producer of "The Last Station," which features best actress nominee Helen Mirren. "Those movies were completely under the radar."

But the double-whammy of "The Blind Side" becoming a huge box office success ($240 million and counting) and Bullock scoring a Golden Globe nomination in December quickly turned her into a serious contender.

The battle heated up during a single weekend last month when Bullock and Streep were honored at both the Critics Choice and Golden Globe awards. They tied at the former, and then took home statuettes for drama and comedy/musical, respectively, at the latter.   Continued...