Last year, the Oscar race was won long in advance by Hilary Swank, who ended up coming through in the end, making the other four nominees mere window dressing. But this year, the race is wide open. While Reese Witherspoon is an early favorite, she by no means has the win locked up.
The five nominees:
Dressing down again for a gritty role '- which the Academy loves '- Theron is a hero in North Country, which should make it even easier for her to snatch up a statue.
The choice is a little old school, but so are the majority of the Academy voters, who love the kind of great acting Dench delivers in Mrs. Henderson Presents, a World War II story of triumph and heartbreak.
While her character swooned over Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, moviegoers have been falling hard for this 20-year-old actress.
Walk the Line is really Joaquin Phoenix's movie, but Witherspoon should still score as Cash's lady love, June Carter.
This is definitely her year, winning an Emmy and now picking up lots of notice for playing a transsexual in the indie road movie TransAmerica.
Last year's winner: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)