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Sandra Bullock's best year ever

By Jacque Wilson, CNN, and Jo Piazza, Special to CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sandra Bullock's "The Blind Side" has amassed more than $150 million at the box office
  • Bullock received two Golden Globe nominations Tuesday
  • Her husband, Jesse James, was successful in his court battle for custody of his daughter

(CNN) -- Sandra Bullock has been having an exceptionally good year. In fact, it could even be argued that the 45-year old actress is having one of her best years yet, both personally and professionally.

Bullock's sleeper hit "The Blind Side" has amassed more than $150 million in box office sales to date. Two weeks ago, the feel-good drama even charged past the seemingly unstoppable "New Moon" in weekend returns.

Beyond the profits, Bullock is finally receiving serious praise for her work. She received two Golden Globe nominations Tuesday: Best Actress in a Drama for "The Blind Side" and Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for "The Proposal."

After the Globe nominations, she has even drawn early Oscar buzz. In "The Blind Side," she plays a Southern mother who adopts a homeless African-American teenager who eventually makes it to the NFL. The real-life story has allowed Bullock to finally be recognized as a serious actress. Over the years, her performances -- in the 2006 Oscar winner "Crash," as Harper Lee in 2006's little-seen "Infamous" and even 2000's "28 Days" -- had gone largely unnoticed.

And this summer, audiences showed that they still love Bullock as the quirky female lead in romantic comedies, proved by the success of "The Proposal." The comedy, in which Bullock starred opposite Ryan Reynolds as a demanding boss who needs to pretend to get hitched to remain in the country legally, pulled in more than $300 million in worldwide box office sales, more than any other film in Bullock's repertoire.

Bullock's fabulous year hasn't gone unnoticed in Hollywood. Studio executives have started sending congratulatory presents to her doorstep, the actress recently revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

"No one really drinks in our house, so we don't really do anything with that," she says. "But we get a lot of champagne!"

Bullock hasn't let the newfound popularity go to her head. "Being a movie star is a joke; it's all such a crapshoot. You just have to sit back and go (a) beyond your control, (b) good marketing, and (c) struck a weird chord," she told the magazine.

Audiences root for her, which is why she's been so successful playing romantic leads and relatable women.
--Matthew Belloni, managing editor for features, Hollywood Reporter
Video: Academy Award nominations
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Bullock's geniality keeps her popular with audiences, even after a turn in some weak films like the confusing time-traveling love story "The Lake House," with Keanu Reeves, and the thriller "Premonition," with Julian McMahon.

"She's always been a very likable actress. Audiences root for her, which is why she's been so successful playing romantic leads and relatable women. She's had less success when she's stretched that persona, but ... I think she'll be given more opportunities to act in A-list projects now. It'll be interesting to see how she takes advantage of this success," says Matthew Belloni, the managing editor for features for the Hollywood Reporter.

Now, as a double nominee for the Golden Globes, Bullock's name is being mentioned alongside Hollywood's biggest female stars.

"Given the phenomenal success of 'The Blind Side' and the strong reviews she got, I think people in Hollywood are rediscovering her as a serious actress. She's now considered one of those rare double threats, like a Meryl Streep or Reese Witherspoon, who can do both comedy and drama and deliver an audience on opening weekend. So that makes her even more attractive to studios looking to cast big movies," Belloni says.

In her personal life, Bullock's husband, reality-television star Jesse James, has emerged victorious for the time being in a court battle for custody of James' 5-year-old daughter with ex-wife Janine Lindemulder. Last week, a California court denied Lindemulder's request for extended custody of the 5-year-old, according to court documents acquired by the Los Angeles Times.

Until the custody battle began to heat up this fall, Bullock lived a relatively quiet and tabloid-free life with her husband and three stepchildren, splitting their time between Austin, Texas, and Long Beach, California. Making her feel even more like the exceptionally pretty girl next door, Bullock owns Bess Bistro in downtown Austin, a comfort-food restaurant that consistently gets rave reviews from locals for its unassuming shepherd's pie and baked lasagna.

"Although she's always been very private, I think women have come to feel closer to her, knowing that she has married and has young stepchildren that she's deeply involved with," says Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief of Hollywood Life.com.

And to her credit, Bullock is maintaining the humility that makes her so relatable to audiences, even in the face of potential award season success.

"I am beyond stunned," Bullock said in a statement Tuesday morning about her two Golden Globe nods. "Just to be included in the company of these amazing women I have so admired through the years has left me slack-jawed with awe."

Entertainment Weekly senior writer Karen Valby, who interviewed Bullock for the magazine's cover story a few weeks ago, says that after a chat with the actress, she believes Bullock is probably grateful for much more than just her box office success in 2009.

"My guess is it would have little to do with the fickle and arbitrary nature of box office numbers, and more to do with the health and happiness of her friends and family and five dogs. Her priorities seem firmly in place, which makes it all the more fun to root for her professionally," Valby says.

 
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