The acting race with the shallowest pool of serious contenders includes the most striking mix of stars both established and new. Seventeen years after receiving a Best Actress nomination for her first film, Educating Rita, JULIE WALTERS should earn a supporting nod as Billy Elliot’s ballet teacher. Two-time nominee FRANCES MCDORMAND (a Best Actress winner for Fargo) is also a front-runner for her portrayal of an overprotective mom in Almost Famous, though she’ll likely have to compete with costar KATE HUDSON. And JUDI DENCH, who won for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, is poised to follow up with her turn as the town pariah in Chocolat (which could also have a long shot in past nominee LENA OLIN).
The fifth slot is tough. CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, who plays the wife of a drug lord in Traffic, and real-life hubby, Michael Douglas, could become the first married major nominees since McDormand and Fargo director Joel Coen in 1996. LAURA LINNEY makes a wicked socialite in The House of Mirth but is more likely to be recognized for starring in You Can Count on Me. Even voters who resist nominating Bjork for Dancer in the Dark can’t count out costar CATHERINE DENEUVE. Two-time nominee KATE WINSLET could sneak in for Quills, but she failed to earn a Globe nod. And a groundswell for Gladiator could mean thumbs up for CONNIE NIELSEN. But our money’s on MARCIA GAY HARDEN, whose performance as painter Lee Krasner in Pollock should qualify as a work of art.
for your consideration
As the sword-stealing dynamo who puts the plot of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in motion, ZHANG ZIYI dazzled us in the desert and knocked us out in the saloon. In short, this actress kicks ass.