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Melissa Leo ‘Frozen River’

Oscar: Lead actress

Why she’ll win: Much like her male counterpart Richard Jenkins, Leo has long been hiding in plain sight, unselfishly churning out superb supporting performances while lingering just below the radar. The Acad’s actors branch, in particular, could rally behind her as a deserving vet finally getting her dues.

Maybe not: The film was little seen, even by arthouse standards, and voters may feel that simply recognizing her work with a nomination is recompense enough.

Critical quote: “Ms. Leo’s magnificent portrayal of a woman of indomitable grit and not an iota of self-pity makes ‘Frozen River’ a compelling study of individual courage,” says Stephen Holden of the New York Times.

A correction was made to this article on Feb. 9, 2009.

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