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    Is This the Most Exciting Best Actress Race Yet?

    Annette Bening, Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Diane Lane, Noomi Rapace

    Is it too early for Team Awful to have awards season fever?

    Oh well, guess that means the flicks that have been hitting the cinemas lately have been more than exceptional. Especially when it comes to the leading ladies who are clearly dominating the male counterparts this year—making the Best Actress race one of the tightest ones we can remember.

    But which babes are guaranteed a top spot, and who's still gunning for that wildcard position?

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    The Shoe-Ins:

    Annette Bening

    Why She'll Get It: We've said it before, but we'll say it again: This A-list gem is almost guaranteed a nom for her standout role in The Kids Are Alright. The mega talent had it all and then some in this flick, and we just can't gush enough about her. Quirky, flawed lesbian never looked more right on an actor.

    Biggest Competition: If not for her stellar costar, Julianne Moore (producers are entering her into the Best Actress race, as well), Annette may be facing off with Hilary Swank (Conviction) again. Hopefully it will end differently this time.

    Anne Hathaway

    Why She'll Get It: While we'd be pleasantly surprised if Jake Gyllenhaal grabbed a nom for his role in Love and Other Drugs (he was damn good, after all), we think Anne will definitely get some recognition for her heart-wrenching role as a toughie young woman with Parkinson's disease.

    Biggest Competition: The movie itself. Voters may pass over the flick as another mushy rom-com not worthy of the Academy's time. Ya know, because that's how it was friggin' marketed. What a shame, too!

    Nicole Kidman

    Why She'll Get It: Nicole kills in Rabbit Hole, playing a shattered mother heroically dealing with the loss of her child. And that's coming from some of Nicole and her infamous frozen face's biggest naysayers. But she's elegant in conveying her grief (as well as some dark, dark humor) in the movie. Kudos, Nic!

    Biggest Competition: The little indie that could has worked well for pics in the past (Juno, anybody?), but with the amount of good big box-office flicks this year, Rabbit may just be too indie for its own good. Let's hope not.

    Gwyneth Paltrow

    Why She'll Get It: The Academy frigging loves Gwyneth Paltrow, GOOP and all (idiots), and wouldn't hesitate to give her a nom. Plus, some folks are heralding Country Strong as Gwyn's big "comeback" performance (as if Iron Man weren't good enough!). And her song from the film is doing very well on the radio.

    Biggest Competition: Corniness, to be frank. The film comes off as over-the-top (as, occasionally, does Gwynny), which some Oscar voters may find off-putting. And remember, she does already own an Oscar that not everybody wanted to gift her with in the first place.

    The Wild Cards:

    Natalie Portman

    Why She'll Get It: Black Swan has been generating Oscar buzz since the first screenings. Former Best Supporting Actress nominee (for Closer), Nat, is said to deliver a helluva performance as a crackers ballerina who isn't afraid to get her lesbian on.

    Biggest Competition: Her costar and possible future Best Supporting Actress nominee, Mila Kunis, who is getting big buzz—and equally big praise—for playing opposite Portman. Hopefully M.K. doesn't have Natalie singing a swan song, tho.

    Michelle Williams

    Why She'll Get It: With an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actress (for Brokeback Mountain) under her cowboy buckle, Michelle has shown that she's one of the most talented—and smartest—chicks in young Hollywood. And Blue Valentine seems to be another well picked, well acted flick. Plus she wasn't afraid to have nearly X-rated sex with Ryan Gosling for the part, which, in Academy-ese, is akin to playing Helen Keller, right?

    Biggest Competition: That NC-17 rating mess isn't helping matters much, but it may just bring more press to the film. And all press is good press, right?

    Diane Lane

    Why She'll Get It: Di goes from meek housewife to one of the male-dominated racing industries top players in Secretariat. She plays the role subtly, avoiding what could have easily been an over-the-top performance. Plus she's got the bad wig (almost as deliciously cemented as Helen Mirren's in The Queen). Oscar voters love that, trust.

    Biggest Competition: Di is definitely the dark horse nominee, yuk, yuk. Oscar voters may have been big on touching, family flicks—or maybe just Sandra Bullock—last year, but Secretariat slips a bit too much into Disney-fied life (the real bitch got divorced, unlike in the fake movie) for Academy voters liking. D.L. is great, but the movie will probably be overlooked.

    Noomi Rapace

    Why She'll Get It: Two words: Lisbeth Salander. She just so happens to be one of the most bad-ass characters to hit the big screen in...ever! And Noomi plays her to utter perfection. The brilliant babe may have been overlooked for the last two films in the franchise, but The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is simply her best performance yet.

    Biggest Competition: It's in Swedish, which we'd love to say doesn't mean crap. Hey, Marion Cotillard not only got nominated but won for La Vie en Rose. That said, it may just be another case of being tragically overlooked.

    PHOTOS: Check out some of 2010: Oscars: Notable Nominees. See any repeat faces?

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