Best actress nominees

Natalie Portman won the best actress Oscar for her role in Black Swan. We profile all of the nominations in that category.

Annette Bening

Annette Bening

Age: 52

Nominated for: The Kids Are All Right

The character: Nic and Jules (Bening and Julianne Moore) are lesbian mothers - but family life takes an unexpected turn when their teenage children establish contact with the sperm donor who is their "bio-dad".

Previous Oscar wins: None

Previous Oscar nominations: Three

She said: "Little things that happen in life that you want to try to bring to the moment when the camera is rolling. That can keep you awake at night thinking 'Can we make that work?'"

The critics said: "Best of all, and a reason alone to see this film, is Annette Bening as the fearsomely brittle Nic." The Independent

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Age: 29

Nominated for: Black Swan

The character: Ballet dancer Nina Sayers is cast in the lead role in Swan Lake, and finds her darker side.

Previous Oscar wins: None

Previous Oscar nominations: One

She said: "The training's a real shock to your body and you're constantly in pain. I'd always have sore muscles in those early days."

The critics said: "Portman's performance is also key, not only as she is providing the majority of the dancing herself, but because she so closely mirrors her character's duality." Den of Geek

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman

Age: 43

Nominated for: Rabbit Hole

The character: Becca and Howie Corbett are struggling to return to everyday existence several months after losing their child in an accident.

Previous Oscar wins: One (best actress in The Hours, 2002)

Previous Oscar nominations: Two

She said: "I had a sense, even before I'd seen the play, that it could be opened out from a stage play to a big screen film. I felt it very deeply."

The critics said: "While the film's actors are all capable, it is Kidman we want to watch most of all. When she is distraught and in pain, we can feel it, underlining how satisfying it is to see this actress take on a role that makes such good use of her great gift for naturalistic acting. " LA Times

Jennifer Lawrence

Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence has been highly praised for her breakthrough performance

Age: 20

Nominated for: Winter's Bone

The character: Teenager Ree Dolly searches for her missing father through the lonesome Missouri landscape.

Previous Oscar wins: None

Previous Oscar nominations: None

She said: "I've seen poverty, we all have. But I simply view the Ozarks as a lifestyle that is different from mine. I don't feel sorry for them, I don't feel sympathetic - this is their life."

The critics said: "If I could choose the best female actress Oscar right now I would give her the statue without a second thought. Lawrence completely makes the film, she takes Ree on an emotional journey that is absolutely fascinating to watch." HeyUGuys blog

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams

Age: 30

Nominated for: Blue Valentine

The character: Nurse Cindy Heller's marriage is to Dean is falling apart, and perhaps the seeds were sown during the couple's courtship.

Previous Oscar wins: None

Previous Oscar nominations: One.

She said: "For me, relationships are the real action movies."

The critics said: "Williams, as she showed in Brokeback Mountain and Wendy and Lucy, has a remarkable capacity to convey hurt, defiance and grief." The Telegraph

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