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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 5, 2010

Oscar pits seasoned pros against ingenues

By Chris Lee
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

From Left: Meryl Streep, nominated for "Julie & Julia," is a familiar Oscar face, with 16 previous nominations and two wins. Carey Mulligan is a newcomer, playing a school-girl in "An Education." A-lister Sandra Bullock is a first-time nominee, for the hit "The Blind Side."

Associated Press

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In what is certain to be one of this year's most vigorously debated Oscar battles, the lead actress category is shaping up as a fight between gossamer youth and hard-won Hollywood experience.

Representing the establishment are Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. Streep who portrays chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia" is a 16-time Academy Award nominee (with two wins). And Mirren, the 64-year old co-star of the Tolstoy biopic "The Last Station," is no less than a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire who claimed a lead actress Oscar for portraying her country's monarch in 2006's "The Queen."

In the other corner are two newcomers: Carey Mulligan and Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe. Mulligan, 24, is a British ingenue most American audiences couldn't have picked out of a police lineup before she appeared as a '60s-era schoolgirl swept off her feet by a dashing older man in "An Education." And portraying an illiterate Harlem teenager with two children sired by her own father, Sidibe, 26, became the unlikely breakout star of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," landing an Oscar nod for her debut acting role.

"I don't come from a place of film," Sidibe said. "I never paid attention to what kind of roles get nominated for Oscars. I don't have another experience to judge it from."

Of her maiden film experience, the actress exclaimed: "I was just trying to get through the day!"

Then there's the outlier: the dark horse who stands a solid chance at late-inning Oscar redemption after racking up Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award wins. That's first-time Oscar nominee Sandra Bullock, long one of the A-list's most populist actresses. She plays an iron-willed evangelical Christian who takes an African-American football player into her family in the surprise box-office smash "The Blind Side."

On Tuesday morning, Bullock was delighted to be on the Oscar ballot but denied ever having harbored award-season ambitions. "If you look at my choices, I would have made drastically different choices (in my career), if that's what I was going for," she said. "I never aspired to this path."

For her part, Mulligan registered her nomination Tuesday with unmitigated shock as well as some awe at being classed with Streep and Mirren. "It feels like there should be separate categories for those people and they should get a double Oscar or something," Mulligan gushed. "It's so mad, because they're light-years away honestly, they're people I've looked up to forever and ever, true idols of mine. I go bright red in the face and mumble every time I see them."