This year's nominees for Best Actress are Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Muligan (An Education), Gabourney Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).
Muligan and Sidibe are some notable newcomers and both are surprise nominees, but they're up against some pretty heavy competition. Helen Mirren won here just two years ago and, though her performance obviously merits a nomination, I don't think it has enough heat to warrant another win so soon after The Queen. Meryl Streep is beloved in Hollywood and is famous for having the most nominations for acting ever, but her last win was in 1983. Voters may feel that after 27 years, she's due for another win. On the other hand, there's Sandra Bullock. She's a first-time nominee, but she's been a hard worker for nearly twenty years without any substantial recognition. Bullock had a great year with three movies (two of them were her most successful ever) and I think that the Academy will jump at the opportunity to give her the award. Meryl Streep will always have next year, but this is a case where the timing is just right for Bullock.