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Oscars - Best Actress

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By patjohnson76 - 02/21/12 at 12:48 PM CT

Part 4 of breaking down the major Oscar races, this one focusing on Best Actress.

Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs

FOR HER: In a project that has spanned nearly 30 years, Close brings her character of Albert Nobbs to the big screen in a critically-acclaimed performance. If voters love passion projects, they have to admire Close here, as she not only stars in the film, but also produced, co-wrote the screenplay and provided the lyrics to the main song sung by Sinead O'Connor. She's also a multiple nominee that's never won.

AGAINST HER: Though her and Janet McTeer's performances were acclaimed, the film was not. Low box office results aren't inspiring either, and as I said in the supporting actress race, let's face it: the movie is kind of weird.

Viola Davis - The Help

FOR HER: After being nominated for a 10-minute performance in 2008's Doubt, Davis finally gets her first leading role in a Best Picture nominee. Ever since the film was released last August, critics and fans alike have embraced Davis' quiet but heartbreaking turn as Aibileen. Davis took a character in a popular book and didn't let anyone down.

AGAINST HER: Some may complain it's not a real "leading" role. Because the film is filled with many great performances, some voters might not want to award two acting Oscars to The Help, as Octavia Spencer is the likely winner of the supporting race. It's only her second nomination, and it's pretty clear that she's going to be a return nominee in future races.

Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

FOR HER: What Viola Davis did for The Help, Rooney Mara did for Stieg Larsson's popular novel - take a female character lead, and nailed it. She personified Lisbeth Salander so well that it's tough to imagine the film without her. In addition to the spot-on adaptation, the physical transformation is astounding as well.

AGAINST HER: Dragon Tattoo scored no other major nominations, so Academy love for the film isn't great. Mara hasn't helped herself by her cold demeanor at awards shows this season. And while Mara did nail the role, to be honest, Noomi Rapace nailed it a few years earlier, and was better at it.

Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

FOR HER: Another outstanding performance by Meryl Streep, this time as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep personifies Thatcher so deeply it's tough to tell the difference in some scenes. Older members of the Academy may be drawn to the performance due to their memories of Thatcher. Plus, she's Meryl Streep, and she's more than due for her second Best Actress Oscar.

AGAINST HER: The film isn't as strong as the performance. The Academy has clearly shown they are willing to reward less memorable performances based on the actress even if Streep's performance is stronger (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kate Winslet and Sandra Bullock, I'm looking at you).

Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn

FOR HER: Another strong performance by an actress embodying a historic figure, Williams' portrayal of Monroe was the main draw of this film. This is her third nomination and some may feel she's due for a win. Should front-runners Davis and Streep split the vote, Williams could sneak in for the win.

AGAINST HER: The film wasn't received that well, it didn't stay in theaters very long, and didn't have much box office. While the impersonation is spot on, the script doesn't give us much about Monroe than we already knew.

FINAL VERDICT: This is coming down to a two-way race between Streep and Davis. If the award were based on performance alone, Streep's is stronger, but Davis has sentiment on her side. This one can go either way, but I think Viola Davis is going to win a close vote for Best Actress come Sunday night.

Coming up: Best Director


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