First, to dws, I don't know how to resolve our quite different views of how Blind Side was reviewed. Not that it's definitive, but I looked up MetaCritic and saw it rated a 53 -- on a par with The Book of Eli and Alice in Wonderland, films I don't expect to see at the Oscars next year, and a few points below The Reader, at which most of us quite rightly sneer. And as far as Bullock's personal notices...they were kind, but if she showed up in any critics' balloting prior to the whoring Broadcasters, I missed it. Berry, Theron and Hunt, however they're disparaged here, all scored in at least one important critical vote prior to the Hollywood stage of the awards fight.
As to the more general topic...I think your take is right, BJ, that popular starlets appear to be held to a looser standard than serious actresses. It's almost an affirmative action program for the lightly talented. To mix metaphors a bit, if folks like Bullock and Berry can manage one clean ski down the beginner's slope, some will instantly push them for the gold -- while the Pfeiffer/Close/Weaver crew work the tougher slopes and find it hard to even get people to watch them.
And I do think that in some specific cases this double standard has put some people on the winning list and kept other, better talents off. Glenn Close is Oscar-less for numerous reasons, but among them is the fact that voters in 1987 decided Cher simply had to have an Oscar -- and, though her movie was a whole lot better, as far as an acting stretch, she was close to Bullock territory. And now, of course, Bullock has directly seen to it that Meryl Streep's Oscar total is kept at one lead, one support. And Julianne Moore lost once to Kim Basinger, who fits the pattern you cite.
By the way, let me throw in that if Bullock had given a performance on the level of the one she gave in Infamous and won, I'd be considerably less unhappy. I'd still probably think it was an over-reward based on popularity, but I wouldn't find it indefensible like I do this.
Your comment on the contrast with the best actor slate is interesting. I think best actor has (almost) always tilted older -- back in the 70s, when it seemed Nicholson, Hoffman and Pacino would never win Oscars, it was because they kept losing to the old guys (Wayne, Lemmon, Carney). Best actress seems to work the other way around.
taki15, I've actually been meaning to contact you and ask how you're enduring the upheaval in Greece. How insane are things?