Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind
PRO: Even we who didn't dig him in Gladiator were converted by his boyish, Redfordesque charm
CON: Back-to-back wins extremely unlikely.
Sean Penn in I Am Sam
PRO: One of Hollywood's strongest actors, who has consistently delivered terrific performances in risky movies ( She's so Lovely, The Thin Red Line.)
CON: We know what you do with her when she's eight. It's what you do with her when she's twenty-five that worries us.
Will Smith in Ali
PRO: Smith displays strong kinetic flair in movie named after co-creator of Felixes (obvious suck-up factor).
CON: De Niro casts a big, big shadow.
Denzel Washington in Training Day
PRO: We have a special place in our hearts--and our apartment--for the suave Mr. Washington, a weak-knee factor possibly shared by voters.
CON: Not a blockbuster movie, so must build momentum fast; lost Golden Globe to Crowe.
Tom Wilkinson in In The Bedroom
PRO: Heartbreaking, possibly the best performance; although British, does flinty, Affliction-like suffering in New England to a T.
CON: So wait, you and your wife are mad at each other?
Halle Berry in Monster's Ball
PRO: Strong performance in nuanced story; takes off top, giving us nudie fodder in poor year for it.
CON: Pepsi Twist commercials raise horrifying possibility of acceptance speech by cross-dressing Barry Bostwick.
Judi Dench in Iris
PRO: Dame Judi--who always has a shot--makes a moving descent into Alzheimer's.
CON: We forget.
Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
PRO: Toughest job of any of the actresses, to be moved by Bernie Taupin lyrics.
CON: Dizzying musical buries her with its high-school-meets-MTV quality.
Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom
PRO: Golden Globe winner for strong, non-glam performance as middle-aged mom and wife; the contender to beat.
CON: Fades a little in second half of movie.
Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones' Diary
PRO: Starving voters will feel Zellweger's post-wrap dieting (she only had one Reese's peanut butter cup in a month) deserves award.
CON: Twenty pounds ain't gravitas; movie too early and too light to get serious consideration.
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