By Dave Karger
Updated February 11, 2009 at 09:53 PM EST

Two of the closest major races at the Oscars this year — Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress — have something very intriguing in common: They’ve both become competitions between Harvey Weinstein and the company he used to run, Miramax. In the lead-actress race, the top two contenders are The Reader‘s Kate Winslet (a Weinstein Co. release) and Doubt‘s Meryl Streep (a Miramax film), while in supporting actress, Vicky Cristina Barcelona‘s Penélope Cruz (Weinstein Co.) and Doubt‘s Viola Davis (Miramax) have the best shot at a win.

In a year when Weinstein — who had an 11-year run of consecutive Best Picture nominees while at Miramax but had been absent from the big dance the last few years — is surprisingly back in the race, it’s rich that his two best chances at Oscar victories are against his old company. Since Weinstein’s departure in 2005, “the new Miramax” is a much different place, run by the unflappable, understated Daniel Battsek. But that’s not to say Battsek’s relative calm hasn’t produced Academy results: He and his team shepherded Helen Mirren to a Best Actress win for The Queen in 2007 and took home Best Picture last year with No Country for Old Men. This year they’ve had a rougher go: After dominating the critics’ awards, Happy-Go-Lucky‘s Sally Hawkins was shut out of the Oscar race, while five-time nominee Doubt failed to score a Best Picture nod.

For the sake of equality, I’m hoping Weinstein and Miramax each take home one female-acting prize next Sunday. But my hunch is that Harvey might just turn out to be a double winner.

addCredit(“Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic”)