Behind Sandra Bullock's 'Blind Side' Oscar Nomination

Few contest her congeniality.

But should Sandra Bullock win an Oscar, that coveted golden statuette that all but guarantees a place in cinema history, a paycheck with a few extra zeros and a more worthy Wikipedia entry?

It's debatable.

Bullock is favored to win the best actress Academy Award next month for playing a Southern belle turned foster mom in "The Blind Side," which itself is nominated for best picture of the year. She has already scored a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy.

VIDEO: Film trailer for The Blind Side.
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Critics agree that because of the wins, Bullock's body of work and the Academy's desire to recognize recognizable stars, the 45-year-old actress may well go home with the first Oscar of her career come March 7.

"She's a very serious actress," said film critic David Thomson, author of the 2008 book "Have You Seen ... ? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films."

"I think she's just lovely. But I think she got nominated because the Academy is in a desperate state and has hardly any mainstream candidates around anymore."

Bullock dated actor Tate Donovan in 1992, as her career was taking off.

"So the Academy searches around and it sees that Sandra had a good year and it reckons to award her for that, for being a good trooper," Thomson said. "She's done good work. She's got a lot of friends in the industry."

She has friends and competition: Bullock's up against Hollywood heavyweights Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, along with newcomers Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe. Already, Bullock and Streep, who tied for best actress at January's Critic's Choice awards, are engaging in some playful ribbing.

Sandra Bullock's breakout role came with 1994's "Speed."

Bullock's Popularity Could Push Her Past Streep

"With Meryl, when this whole thing started, I left her a voice mail going, 'You've got to watch your back. I'm going to cut you. I'm going to take you down,'" Bullock told the Associated Press. "And then she sent me dead orchids and told me to die, so I sent her a case of liquor and told her to toast to white trash."

Classy. Bullock has also mentioned -- tongue in cheek, of course -- that she plans to get liposuction and acquire a hint of an English accent before next month's ceremonies. But jokes aside, Bullock said she wishes all the women in her category well, and she's as shocked as anyone to be up for an Oscar.

Critics agree that it's hard to compare her performance to those of Streep, Mirren, Mulligan and Sidibe. That said, as in high school, in Hollywood, popularity matters.

Bullock dated her "Time to Kill" co-star Matthew McConaughey.

"The idea that Sandra is remotely comparable with Meryl Streep in 'Julie and Julia' is just silly," author Thomson said. "But she's popular and this might be a year in which popularity wins through."

"My guess is that it's a toss up between Streep and Bullock," he added, "and I would say that Bullock has a real chance just because everybody, Streep included, seems to be bored with her winning. Sandra Bullock has never had anything, really."

Looking back at Bullock's career, Thomson's last sentiment is hard to contest. She had her huge box office hits -- 1994's "Speed," 1995's "While You Were Sleeping," 2000's "Miss Congeniality" and its 2005 sequel -- but she has always been known among critics as the girl in the slightly dopey, if well-intentioned, romantic comedy, not an Oscar-caliber actress.

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