Oscar will have no problem finding a few good men to fill the Best Actor category this year. In fact, the competition has rarely been stiffer. The only problem? Winnowing down the field to five nominees by Feb. 17. The current front-runners include:
AL PACINO His tour-de-force turn as a blind man in Scent of a Woman has already snagged a Golden Globe and could bring Pacino his sixth nomination.
CLINT EASTWOOD This year’s sentimental favorite for Unforgiven, Eastwood might take his first Oscar.
DENZEL WASHINGTON A snub by the Directors Guild of America may put Spike Lee’s Oscar prospects in peril, but the Academy probably can’t ignore Washington’s powerful performance in Malcolm X.
JACK LEMMON The smarmy real estate salesman in Glengarry Glen Ross is considered a career-topping effort for this 40-year veteran. Also in the running:
STEPHEN REA An unknown two months ago, the Irish actor could now win a slot thanks to manic buzz on The Crying Game.
TOM CRUISE While A Few Good Men was the big loser at the Golden Globe Awards, an anti-Globe sympathy vote could push Cruise to the top.
JACK NICHOLSON A Hoffa nomination is a possibility, though voters might reward him with a Best Supporting Actor nod for Men instead.
TIM ROBBINS A nomination for Robbins’ Player would give the Academy the last laugh.
Even this year’s long shots boast formidable talent, so don’t rule out Jeremy Irons (Damage), Anthony Hopkins (Howards End), and Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans).