Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Kristin Scott Thomas, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet

Anne Hathaway

‘Rachel Getting Married’

How she got here: Shattering her good-girl persona with her turn as a toxic mess of a human being, Anne Hathaway illustrated the kind of career stretch that gets noticed, and copped the National Board of Review’s admiration and her first Glolden Globe nod. That it came on the heels of the comedic summer smash “Get Smart” — as well as a period in which her personal life came painfully undone in pubic — only made it more obvious that the actress has hidden depths behind those unnervingly dark eyes and a sky’s-the-limit future ahead of her. If the Globes don’t happen for her this year, Hathaway is fine. She’s the only nominee with a Lancome contract.

 

Angelina Jolie

‘Changeling’

How she got here: Having Clint Eastwood tap you for one of his rare director forays into a female-driven movie already means you have the goods necessary to succeed (“Million Dollar Baby,” anyone?). But Angelina Jolie’s role as an anguished mother desperate to find her son seems to have tapped into the actress’s own real-life role as a mom of six. A past HFPA winner (for “Girl, Interrupted” and telepics “Gia” and “George Wallace”), she has earned industry respect by mixing commerce (like last summer’s actioner “Wanted”) with more intimate work (like “A Mighty Heart,” which won her a 2007 Globe nom) that pushes her dramatic boundaries.

 

Kristin Scott Thomas

‘I’ve Loved You So Long’

How she got here: For someone who made her feature debut playing Prince’s love interest in the instantly forgettable “Under the Cherry Moon,” the past year must be sweet. Recently on the Broadway stage in “The Seagull,” Kristin Scott Thomas has received the kind of reviews actors kill for. And after a film career that often seemed almost halfhearted in its inconsistency (accolades and nominations for “The English Patient,” throwaway roles in things like “Keeping Mum”), the British actress’s strong, blunt performance as a recent parolee in this French stunner finally lets her carry a film worthy of her arsenal. Though she faces stiff competition, no less a fellow nominee than Meryl Streep has said she’s impressed.

Meryl Streep

‘Doubt’

How she got here: Defying the rule that actresses over 40 don’t get meaty roles or work enough, Meryl Streep appears to have gotten nothing but interesting parts and to get a day off only when she decides to take one. “Adaptation,” “Angels in America” and “The Devil Wears Prada” are just a few of her accomplishments since turning 50 — and all three were honored with a Golden Globe. Who else but Streep, the most lauded actress in American film history (with six Globe wins and an astonishing 14 additional nominations), could earn lead actress nods in the same year for playing both a monstrously righteous nun and a singing, dancing fool?

Kate Winslet

‘Revolutionary Road’

How she got here: Like Streep, Kate Winslet is a double nominee this year (the other is in the supporting category for “The Reader”), and also like Streep, she’s considered to be the actress who sets the bar for her peers. However, unlike the Yank, this Brit has never taken a Golden Globe home, despite five nominations, beginning with “Sense and Sensibility” — and many think it’s high time she did. Working with director-husband Sam Mendes for the first time, Winslet again hits just the right notes of depth and despair in her interpretation of a housewife who finds that suburbia really is hell.

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