Oscar: Lead actress

Why she’ll win: Combining flapper glamour with flashes of grit, Jolie managed to retain a certain audacious femininity while still syncing perfectly with director Clint Eastwood’s stark, distinctly masculine milieu. It’s a trick that’s been pulled off only once before — by Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby,” for which an Oscar statuette was forthcoming.

Maybe not: There are only so many different ways to inflect the line “Where is my son?” before its constant repetition becomes ridiculous. And while it’s hardly Jolie’s fault, the film’s occasional detours into melodrama may take some of the sting out of her performance.

Critical quote: “Though her character is bathed in an aura of idealized motherhood that only an old Tory like Eastwood could still offer us with a straight face, Jolie liberates her with a wonderfully contained simmer. Her irritation at being forced to take a strange child into her home hovers beautifully between touching and laugh-out-loud and blooms into quiet rage as the city mouse turns tigress,” says Ella Taylor of the Dallas Observer.

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