HALLE BERRY FOR HER Her fearless, vanity-free performance as Monster’s Ball’s widow exhibited unforeseen talent in the former model. She’s just become the first African-American SAG Best Actress winner; can she be the first at the Oscars as well? AGAINST HER The film seems to have as many detractors as supporters; some wonder if she was too glam for such a gritty role. 2-1 ODDS

JUDI DENCH FOR HER Her turn as the feisty heroine in Iris transcended schmaltz and put an unforgettable face to Alzheimer’s disease; she’s earned four Oscar nominations in the past five years, but she hasn’t yet won in this category. AGAINST HER She’s up against much flashier competition; have enough voters seen her teensy film? 8-1 ODDS

NICOLE KIDMAN FOR HER As Twentieth Century Fox’s campaign screams, ”She sings. She dances. She dies.” More to the point, she’s Moulin Rouge’s only acting nominee. Plus, she was terrific in The Others, so if voters choose to award a 2001 body of work, it’s hers. AGAINST HER It’s been almost 30 years since an actress won an Oscar for a musical; will the hate-its outnumber the love-its? 4-1 ODDS

SISSY SPACEK FOR HER Oscar loves a comeback. Twenty-one years after racking up the wins (New York and L.A. critics, Golden Globe, Academy Award) for Coal Miner’s Daughter, she’s three quarters of the way there as In the Bedroom’s grieving mother. This is her sixth nomination; it feels like her moment. AGAINST HER The Academy might choose to spread the wealth. 3-2 ODDS

RENEE ZELLWEGER FOR HER First, the Bridget Jones’s Diary star achieved the unlikely: She convincingly shed her Texas twang for a British lilt. Now, she’s pulled off an even more incredible feat: She’s earned a Best Actress nod for a comedic performance. AGAINST HER It’s a comedic performance. Oh, and it’s a comedic performance. 20-1 ODDS

THE LOWDOWN With surges by Berry and Kidman, Spacek’s lead is growing smaller by the day.