In the Oscars' race for best supporting actress, Mo'Nique is widely presumed to be the front-runner.
However, the star of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" portrays a monstrous ghetto mama so vile that voters may hold the role against the actress. In that case, this contest is wide open, and several of her rivals have a good shot at an upset, including Julianne Moore ("A Single Man") and "Up in the Air" stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. I think a lot of my fellow Oscarologists are foolishly underestimating Farmiga. Most think that her young, bubbly costar, Anna Kendrick, has a better shot at getting nominated. But beware: Award voters, mostly male and middle-aged (and older), often get excited by mature women who portray the seductress. Think Virginia Madsen ("Sideways," 2004), who was nominated at the Oscars and Globes, won the Indie Spirit and swept the critics awards — New York, Los Angeles, National Society of Film Critics and Critics' Choice.
At the Golden Globes, the Weinstein Co. is pushing Mélanie Laurent up to lead, but that may not hold at the Oscars, so I'm keeping her on this list of supporting players. Remember, academy voters can place a contender in whatever category they wish.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Clarkson, "Whatever Works"
• Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Judi Dench, "Nine"
• Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
• Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Mélanie Laurent, "Inglourious Basterds"
• Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Samantha Morton, "The Messenger"
• Julianne Moore, "A Single Man"
Susan Sarandon, "The Lovely Bones"
Rachel Weisz, "The Lovely Bones"
Ellen Burstyn, "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"
Mariah Carey, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Marion Cotillard, "Public Enemies"
Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"
Jane Lynch, "Julie & Julia"
Paula Patton, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Rosamund Pike, "An Education"
Natalie Portman, "Brothers"
Betty White, "The Proposal"
Kate del Castillo, "Julia"
Rachel Evan Wood, "Whatever Works"
Charlize Theron, "The Road"
Emma Thompson, "An Education"
Photos, from left: Mo'Nique in "Precious." Credit: Lionsgate. George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air." Credit: Paramount