By EW Staff
Updated February 19, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Who’ll win Best Actress in 2004?

A young up-and-comer who shocked critics with a transformative role in an indie drama versus a seasoned Hollywood actress who shone with a more comedic performance from a studio. Sound familiar? That’s because it happened four years ago, when ”Boys Don’t Cry”’s Hilary Swank faced off against ”American Beauty”’s Annette Bening in this category. After splitting some early prizes — Swank took the Golden Globe while Bening won the SAG Award — Swank landed the Oscar. This year, history should repeat itself when ”Monster”’s Charlize Theron narrowly tops ”Something’s Gotta Give”’s Diane Keaton. Both are admired performances (and the only nominations for each of their respective films), but the added heft of Theron’s real-life serial-killer alter ego, Aileen Wuornos, should clinch it, despite the vote-siphoning from Naomi Watts’ equally devastating performance in ”21 Grams.” Meanwhile, for Samantha Morton (”In America”) and 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes (”Whale Rider”), we think the nomination is their award.