Roberto Begnini in Life Is Beautiful
PRO: The return of Chaplin/Sellars/Jerry Lewis, depending on who you talk to; academy voters love Holocaust movies
CON: He's really just Jim Carrey with foreign cachet and less hair; accused of making light of the Holocaust; his butt does not talk.
Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan
PRO: tempers his cracking "There's no crying in baseball" voice through the entire picture; pulls off the hand-shaking stuff pretty nicely; best performance of his career.
CON: Has won twice and is running out of high school teachers to thank; Hanks seems on a desparate mission to instruct movie-goers in American history (Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, From the Earth to the Moon.) When's the Smoot-Hawley tariff flick?
Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters
PRO: First sympathetic role after two Nazis and Czar Nicolas II; plays a gay guy, which worked for Hanks in Philadelphia
CON: Plays a misunderstood Hollywood director, which alienates both the actors' and writers' branches. Really is gay, so performance neither a stretch nor subversive
Nick Nolte in Affliction
PRO: Fine shades of grizzled; ripped a tooth out of his mouth with pliers; blames his parents for his troubles.
CON: Not a Hollywood guy; a little TOO convincing as a drunken reprobate; independent movie set just a few bacon slices too close to Canada.
Edward Norton in American History X
PRO: Convincingly played a Nazi who can shoot some hoops. Who's got game, Denzel?
CON: Small movie; goatees are out, man, even for Nazis. Life Is Beautiful has the corner on Nazis this year; infighting with director sure to hurt his chances for a win, but when you're 1,000-1, forget it anyway.
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
PRO: Hollywood moguls admire movies about times when rulers wielded REAL authority;
CON: Outqueened in several performances: by Judi Dench in same role in Shakespeare in Love, by boisterous Latifah in Living Out Loud, and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters.
Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
PRO: Winning will spawn obnoxious "Countess of Montenegro" headlines; not upstaged by kid; at last, an actress who knows how to eat. Yeah!
CON: Foreign film; Rodizio, despite our best efforts, hasn't caught on in L.A. yet.
Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love
PRO: Oscar trifecta: cross-dresses, shows her ta-tas, and dies; Golden Globe winner; big, happy movie; daughter of industry royalty has already proven literary chops (Emma, A Perfect Murder)
CON: overrated scrawny-necked "It girl" needs to go away for a while; a remake will be made with Alicia Silverstone that beats the hell out of this movie
Meryl Streep in One True Thing
PRO: Dies (we think: she has cancer, we didn't see it). Won already, but surprisingly only once in this category; Existence of Stepmom means One True Thing isn't considered the most manipulative and cloying movie of the year.
CON: Does no accent; has already won this award . . . and maybe the dingo took her Oscar.
Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie
PRO: Previous nominee (Breaking the Waves) proves she's not a flash in the pan, even though the movie was; multiple sclerosis more uplifting than the cancer suffered by Streep's character.
CON: Confused viewers (and web site creator) expecting flick about wives of philandering Presidents
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