The possibly most unpredictable race of the year. I'm not afraid to make predictions.
Who Will Win: Meryl Streep, Doubt
Really, how can you deny an actress so many times? She's only won twice, and I think that the Academy will give her a statuette for her great work as Sister Aloysius. Every has their money on Winslet, but I don't think people see the significance of Harvey Weinstein's idiocy. Streep will go home with an award for the first time in 27 years.
Who Should Win: Melissa Leo, Frozen River
2008 was a year of comeback performances. Although Leo's work may not have been as outstanding as Mickey Rourke's, it's a seriously unprecedented performance. Leo carries "River" and makes a potentially okay movie into something grand. She's perfect for the part, and she masters it so well, you are swept away.
The other nominees:
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Hathaway shows the Academy she can act, in a devastating performance as the black sheep of the family. It's her best work ever, and in any other year, it would be recognized. It's stunning, career-making work.
Kate Winslet, The Reader
Although angering me for playing in both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, Winslet does a very good job as Hanna Schmitz, a Nazi guard who has an affair that (almost) proves to be the tide changer in her case. Name another actress who could have done this better, and I'll be surprised.
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Although a great performance at the beginning of Clint Eastwood's slow-moving drama, Jolie's work falls apart as the movie progresses. I agree she's here just so she can be Brad's Oscar date, not because of great work. Kristin Scott-Thomas and Sally Hawkins really got snubbed for amazing performances, ones that should have been in the spot that Jolie occupies.