Kate Winslet's elusive Oscar finally within reach

By Jill Serjeant

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 18, 2009 at 10:10 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Win or lose at Sunday's
Oscar ceremony, British actress Kate Winslet will enter Academy
Award history.

Winslet, 33, will either walk past her chief rival, Meryl
Streep, to collect her first Oscar for her performance as a
woman with a secret Nazi past in "The Reader," or share the
dubious title of biggest losing actress for having been
nominated for the coveted honor, and lost, six times.

The betting in Hollywood ahead of the Feb. 22 ceremony for
the world's top film awards is that Winslet should be getting
her acceptance speech ready.

"I think it is her time. When Academy members are voting,
they are going to be thinking not just of 'The Reader' but of
'Revolutionary Road,"' said Hollywood.com movie critic Pete
Hammond, when talking about the two movies starring Winslet
that were released within weeks of each other in 2008.

"That is pretty daunting when you have two great
performances like that back to back," Hammond said.

The three other best actress nominees are Anne Hathaway as
a resentful sister in "Rachel Getting Married," Melissa Leo in
border smuggling drama "Frozen River" and Angelina Jolie
playing a mother searching for her child in "Changeling."

Winslet, who parlayed art house success into international
stardom in "Titanic" in 1997, has already picked up two Golden
Globes for her role as a German woman with a teenage lover and
a secret in "The Reader" and as a frustrated 1950s American
housewife in "Revolutionary Road."

She has also won BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Awards, and
in emotional speeches, she has expressed shock at her wins
after smiling bravely from her seat so often in the past.

"Kate is way overdue. One more loss and she will be tied at
six as Oscar's biggest losing actress with Deborah Kerr and
Thelma Ritter. And at the age of 33, that would be terrible,"
said Tom O'Neil of awards website TheEnvelope.com.

The performer who holds the record for what is officially
termed the most Oscar-nominated non-winner is Peter O'Toole
with eight. Other stars, including Al Pacino, Laurence Olivier
and Paul Newman were nominated several times before winning.

"Kate has a solid lead. She is in a Holocaust movie,
speaking with a foreign accent, she ages dramatically and she
looks great naked -- all key elements for a win," he said.


Streep, 59, a two-time Oscar winner has a record of her own
as the most-nominated actor or actress ever in Academy Award
history with 15 previous nods.

Although a popular winner at the Screen Actors Guild Awards
in January for her role as a suspicious nun in "Doubt," the
last Oscar Streep took home was for 1982's "Sophie's Choice."

Streep admitted last month that losing was tough. "When you
lose you think 'my work wasn't any good,"' Streep told the ABC
news program "Nightline." "But it's an honor to be nominated,
and it is! It is. But you just feel worse when you lose than
you did before you got nominated."

Streep's turn in "Doubt" -- a tense drama of suspected sex
abuse in the Catholic Church in the 1960s -- was a reminder of
her versatility in a year that also saw her comic turn as the
singing mom in musical blockbuster "Mamma Mia!"

"I thought it was a wonderful performance," said film
scholar Richard Schickel of Streep's work in "Doubt." "But
people say Meryl always gives a good performance."

Jolie, Hathaway and Leo are considered long shots, yet
O'Neil notes that Academy voters often are full of surprises
and anything could happen Oscar night.

"These 6,000 or so Oscar voters are bullheaded
contrarians," he said. "Every time we think we've got them
figured out, they remind us how eccentric they are. And that's
what makes the Oscar race fun."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Todd Eastham)

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