Feb. 3, 2010 -- Few contest her congeniality.
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.
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."
"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.
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.
"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.
"She's likeable," Thomson said. "By today's standards, she's not quite the girl next door, she's the divorcee next door."
Then came 2009; the year in which Bullock paid her romantic comedy dues ("The Proposal"), fronted a feel-good film ("The Blind Side"), and, well, flopped ("All About Steve"). Fittingly, the night before this year's Oscars, Bullock is up for a worst actress Razzie for her role as a "stalkerish" crossword puzzle writer in that last mess of a movie.
Bullock Could Be Best and Worst
"She certainly is aware that 'All About Steve' is not her best work," said John Wilson, head of the Razzie awards, which has been recognizing the worst in the movie industry since 1980. "This is not about her as a person, this is about the character she plays in the movie."
If you haven't seen the film, Wilson will save you the trouble:
"The main thrust of the film, which I think is meant to be endearing but it ends up kind of creepy, is that she's fixated with Bradley Cooper's character. And she writes crossword puzzles. She's very odd. She all but rapes him in his van the minute she sees he's attractive. Then she proceeds to stalk him across the entire Midwest, through a tornado, down a well. At the end of the movie, when she falls down the well, you don't really want her to get up."
As with the best actress Oscar, according to Wilson, Bullock all but has that Razzie in her hand. She told USA Today that she is "so showing up" to the March 6 ceremony should she win.
"I have to enjoy that as much as getting an Oscar nomination," she said of her Razzie nom. "It is the great balance in our business."
And if she scores the Academy Award the following night? She'll be the talk of the town, she'll be on magazine covers the world over. Her per-movie price will rise and her mantel will sparkle with that shiny hunk of gold and metal.
In the end, however, Thomson said:
"The truth is it would mean very little. She is at an age where her looks are not going to improve, where she may already have taken certain decisions about what to do with her looks -- I say may -- and her parts are going to get more strained in that she's getting older. So it's not going to make a great deal of difference."