Natalie PortmanNatalie Portman is deservedly receiving the best reviews of her career for her performance in director Darren Aronofsky's 'Black Swan.' In the film, Portman plays Nina, a ballerina who buckles in her pursuit of perfection as the lead in a production of 'Swan Lake' and descends deep into madness. It's a wild, terrifying performance in an artful, psychologically-complex thriller, and Portman nails it.

If anyone is going to best presumed Oscar frontrunner Annette Bening for this year's Best Actress prize, it's Portman. Their performances are a study in opposites: Bening is subtlety incarnate in 'The Kids Are Alright,' her character's anger plays out more in cold glances and pursed lips than it does in hysterics, while Portman goes for broke in 'Swan,' losing her mind in a cascade of violence, tears, pirouettes and gore. Which actress Oscar voters go for will likely have more to do with personal preference than who gave the "better" performance. Those inclined to celebrate nuance will lean toward Bening; voters who champion wild-eyed intensity will check Portman's name on the ballot.

Portman, however, may have more to overcome than Bening's acclaimed performance and longstanding reputation as a capable (and overdue) actress come Oscar season. In the heat of the competition, the actress's rom-com 'No Strings Attached' hits theaters, and, well, we're a little worried it might just end up being her 'Norbit.'