Alec Baldwin in The Cooler
PRO: The hobbit makeup guys spent hours on his hands
CON: The kind of performance where Alec Baldwin makes Stephen Baldwin look
like Billy Baldwin
Benicio del Toro in 21 Grams
PRO: Won for "Traffic;" has juicy role originally intended for Sean Penn; not since Brando has a man acted so well while enunciating so prlsbmbluh
CON: In a year with "Dirty Pretty Things," this only second best organ donor
movie of the year
Djimon Honsou in In America
PRO: After Amistad, a role with a little sweetness
CON: Zero name recognition; he'd get more votes if he was listed as "that guy from Amistad"
Tim Robbins in Mystic River
PRO: Holds his own against Sean Penn despite wearing Mary Lou Retton's hair (ah, the '80s)
CON: We preferred more understated co-star Kevin Bacon; political activism may lead Academy to fear repeat of Michael Moore anti-war rant
Ken Watanabe in Last Samurai
PRO: Actual title character (unlike non-nominee Tom Cruise)
CON: Japanese guy in movie about Japanese people -- not much of a stretch
Shoreh Agdashloo in House of Sand and Fog
PRO: Iranian actress, best known for performing in Farsi, quietly stands up against Kingsley, best known for playing Hindi
CON: Letterman not hosting this year; fear of Joan Rivers chador jokes
Patricia Clarkson in Pieces of April
PRO: Spillover goodwill from "The Station Agent": warm breast-cancer victim portrayal advances genre made great by "First you Cry"
CON: Isn't she that chick from "American Idol?"
Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River
PRO: Holds her own in acting-as-hard-as-they-can company of Penn, Bacon and Robbins; also, has same middle name as Kevin Spacey
CON: A woman who'd do that to her husband doesn't deserve the Oscar.
Holly Hunter in Thirteen
PRO: Heartfelt recovering alky a favorite academy trope
CON: Mom-cooler-than-kid done better by Jamie Lee in "Freaky Friday"
Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain
PRO: Character shows up and saves dire situation, in this case unwatchable movie
CON: Apparently, starving Southerners got through the war by chewing on scenery
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