Russell Crowe in The Insider
PRO: Leftover halo from L.A. Confidential; much handsomer than his character and will make cute Oscar appearance; hero fights most evil of forces, Big Media
CON: Academy members not the best audience to sympathise with anti-smoking message; Crowe's previous malfeasance (i.e. Virtuosity and The Quick and the Dead.)
Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story
PRO: Great performance out of a guy probably before this most well-known for playing the assistant manager in The Natural.
CON: We thought this was going to be some kind of innovative, lust-driven David Lynch movie about a sex-crazed 75-year old gay guy, but it's just a fucking crank driving a damn mower across Iowa for principle. What a gyp.
Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown
PRO: Halo from The Thin Red Line. First Woody Allen lead in recent memory not forced into embarrassing impression of the Woodster (see Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity, John Cusack, Bullets over Broadway, Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry).
CON: Mute costar; no bloody battle scenes.
Kevin Spacey in American Beauty
PRO: He does indeed rule.
CON: We hear Spacey's planning to do a dead-on impersonation of Roberto Benigni's "make love to all of you on the firmament" nonsense from last year.
Denzel Washington in The Hurricane
PRO: Great boxing scenes; acts in triplicate against himself (without John Malkovich showing up).
CON: See Twister before you see this. Or any other movie named after a weather-related event, for that matter.
Annette Bening in American Beauty
PRO: Tough little cookie; she gets points just for that 'kick a football through my legs' screwing scene midway through the picture.
CON: Which would you rather have -- a pristine sofa, or sex with Kevin Spacey?
Janet McTeer in Tumbleweeds
PRO: This is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime, brilliant, mesmerizing performance...
CON: ...that no one on Earth saw.
Julianne Moore in The End of the Affair
PRO: Blanketing the screens this year with major supporting performances, including Magnolia, A Map of the World, and An Ideal Husband.
CON: She didn't come hither with any blankets.
Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart
PRO: Seeing her as a mega-bitch music teacher made us want to quit playing the violin all over again, and that was 15 years ago.
CON: Mrs. Holland's Opus.
Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry
PRO: Critics' groups--even losers like us--are falling over themselves to give her awards. Will be forced to outdress Cher to reassert her feminity.
CON: Everybody seems to forget this 'actress' starred in Karate Kid IV: Resurrection.
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