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Best Supporting Actor

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Though he’s riding a crest of nostalgia for ’70s legends who redeemed themselves in ’97 (too bad Fleetwood Mac didn’t make a film), BURT REYNOLDS (1) had better hope Academy members have a short memory: Yes, critics’ awards on both coasts almost guarantee him a nod for the avuncular pornster he played in Boogie Nights, but Reynolds reportedly hated the movie when he first saw it and fired his agent as a result. On the other hand, if he did win, it would set the stage for a uniquely apologetic (not to mention hilarious) acceptance speech, so cross your fingers.

Of course, if the Academy’s looking to liven up the show, ROBIN WILLIAMS (2), the sympathetic shrink in Good Will Hunting, could be counted on to riff at the podium. And when it comes to acceptance speeches, RUPERT EVERETT (3) could always borrow Ellen DeGeneres’ line ”Yep, I’m gay,” since his adroit partnering of Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding was a genuine crowd-pleaser.

Playing a gay character could also do the trick for GREG KINNEAR, given the enthusiastic reception for As Good as It Gets. But he’s no shoo-in, considering his Oscar-winning competition: The last time he played a President, in 1995’s Nixon, ANTHONY HOPKINS (4) scored a nomination, and there’s every reason to believe that history will repeat itself with his scenery-chewing turn as Amistad’s John Quincy Adams. KEVIN SPACEY (5) , who won the category two years ago for The Usual Suspects, could be back again for his smoothie of a cop in L.A. Confidential — if costars JAMES CROMWELL and DANNY DEVITO don’t siphon votes from him. And JON VOIGHT, who took home an Oscar in 1979 for Coming Home, could return thanks to his legal posturings in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker. Finally, if nostalgia runs rampant, then even Jackie Brown’s RoBert Forster, still medium cool after all these years, could make the final five. — GK

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LOVABLE LONG SHOT

It’s easy to take John Travolta for granted. Ever since his much-trumpeted comeback in ’94, he’s been a constant presence on the big screen. Which is why it’s ironic that most people missed his finest performance since Pulp Fiction: Joey, the sweet-hearted but hotheaded Buddha of suburbia in She’s So Lovely. Wedged between Sean and Robin Wright Penn in all their blowsy torment, it’s Travolta — surly, funny, addled — who comes out looking loveliest. Will the Academy notice?

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