Can Kate Winslet do any wrong? The 31-year-old actress is beloved by critics, geeky video-store clerks, and teenage girls alike. She can break hearts whether she's windswept at the prow of a doomed ship, making snow angels on an icy lake with Jim Carrey, or sneaking a consumptive cough as Johnny Depp charms her brood of children. The wonder of Winslet is her ability to move audiences even when she's playing a mess of a woman. As Sarah, the desperately flawed heart of Little Children, Winslet is rumpled and bored, a smart housewife stuck in a bad marriage, dragging her young daughter behind her like luggage. It's a risky role, playing a lousy, adulterous mother, and Winslet never shrinks from her character's complexity. ''She wasn't afraid to let her hair down, in terms of her vanity,'' says director Todd Field, ''and in terms of getting completely emotionally and physically naked. And I tell you there are many actors who wouldn't do that and would be too concerned with their image.''
Little Children earns Winslet her fifth Academy nod. Refreshingly, she isn't one to waste time being coy about such recognition. ''I feel incredibly proud of my nominations,'' she says happily, though she's quick to point out that she's never actually won either an Oscar or a Golden Globe. ''I've had the opportunity to play so many great parts. The only aspiration I've ever had it was never to be a famous movie star is to be able to do this work for as long as I can.'' Fans of Kate Winslet need not fret if her name isn't called this year. With her track record, there's always next year. And the next, and the next after that.