There are two Oscar universes: fantasy and reality.
And every year, some lucky folks find themselves with an embarrassment of riches: two potential Oscar roles instead of one. When this happens, each actor has to pick and choose their spots without costing themselves a possible nomination. Usually, one role winds up feeding the other. Thus last year Kate Winslet got extra points for Revolutionary Road, which fed her performance in The Reader, for which she won the best actress Oscar.
This year, it's likely that Oscar perennial Penelope Cruz's leading role in Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces will give her a boost in the supporting actress category for Rob Marshall's musical Nine.
Another Oscar-winner, Marion Cotillard, is getting a push for her lead role in Nine, but could also come out ahead in supporting for her gangster's moll in Public Enemies.
Meanwhile James McAvoy is getting a campaign for best actor in The Last Station, even though Christopher Plummer plays a volcanic Leo Tolstoy opposite likely best actress nominee Helen Mirren. That's because Plummer's going to push for supporting for The Last Station, saving best actor for Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. (That movie will likely do better on the awards front with its visual elements, from cinematography and production design to costumes and visual effects.)
Matt Damon is heading for best actor status in The Informant! and supporting for Clint Eastwood's Invictus.
While George Clooney has two movies opening this fall, the stoner comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats and Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, only the latter is a real Oscar contender.
And Meryl Streep is far more likely to land a best actress nom for Julie & Julia than the Nancy Meyers relationship ensemble It's Complicated. But it won't hurt Streep if she emerges with a hot DVD release as well as a new hit comedy at year's end.