The Best Actress race is a toughie this year.
Melissa Leo (Frozen River) stars in a tiny independent that not many people saw, so without a huge marketing push, her chances are weak. Perennial nominee Meryl Streep's dour nun in Doubt might be too severe a character and, though she gets a few good crying scenes, Angelina Jolie's movie, Changeling, fizzled at the box office.
The real revelation this year was Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married. As an alcoholic who ruins her sister's wedding, Hathaway gets to do all the things that voters love to see - broad range and self-destructive behavior. On top of that, this is the opposite of all the frothy romances she's know for. On the other hand, her recent follow-up, Bride Wars, didn't set the world aflame and may hurt her chances. Remember when Norbit was released right after Eddie Murphy was nominated for Dreamgirls? Many believe that it left a sour taste in voters' mouths and the same thing might happen to Anne Hathaway.
Any other year, I'd pick Hathaway, but Kate Winslet's nomination complicates things. Her role in The Reader has won her awards for Supporting Actress, but she is, in fact, the lead in the movie and is up for Lead Actress at the Oscars. Unlike Hathaway, her nomination is bolstered by a great un-nominated performance in Revolutionary Road. I think that the oft-nominated Winslet has gained a lot of support and will end up on stage this year. It's not a great movie and certainly not her best performance, but chances are, she'll win.