EW's Oscar predictions -- Why we think ''Silence of the Lambs'', Mercedes Ruehl, and Nick Nolte will win.

Everyone into the Oscar pool! This year, as an aid to Oscar handicappers everywhere, Entertainment Weekly again provides the ultimate, inside-Hollywood line on the six major awards. Here’s how it works: The pluses and minuses each nominee brings to the race are carefully ranked on a scale of -50 to +50. We add up the positives, subtract the negatives, and voila: the most precise accounting for Academy taste this side of Price Waterhouse.

Best Actor

PLUSES: Good comportment (wild man becomes doting dad and even marries the mom) +30; showy role in Best Picture nominee +30; sentiment (has never won for acting) +20; sex appeal +20; National Board of Review winner +15; could be part of Bugsy sweep +10; Happy Birthday (turns 55 on Oscar day) +5.
MINUSES: Didn’t win L.A. Film Critics award, though film won big -20; success, sex appeal (Envy Factor) -20; will split crazed-killer vote with De Niro and Hopkins -15; no longer hot at box office -15.
TOTAL: 60 points

PLUSES: Scary part very different from other 1991 performances (Guilty by Suspicion, Backdraft) +45; lifted weights for role +10; revered actor +10.
MINUSES: Hopkins’ psycho had more impact -25; vehicle not well liked in Hollywood -20; has won twice already (share the wealth) -20; has played psychos before (enough already) -10.
TOTAL: -10 points

ANTHONY HOPKINS The Silence of the Lambs
PLUSES: New York Film Critics and National Board of Review winner +40; showy part in crowd-pleasing Best Picture nominee +35; Hannibal Lecter now part of popular culture +25; could be part of a Silence sweep +25; British roots (Prestige Factor) +15.
MINUSES: Smallish role for a lead Oscar (would have had Supporting Oscar all sewn up) -35; will split the crazed-killer vote with Beatty and De Niro -25.
TOTAL: 80 points

NICK NOLTE The Prince of Tides
PLUSES: Golden Globe and L.A. Film Critics winner +50; sex appeal +25; Acceptance Speech Factor (will praise non-nominated director Barbra Streisand) +25; prominent in Best Picture nominee +20; helped by change-of-pace part in Cape Fear +15.
MINUSES: Hollywood loner -30; sex appeal (Envy Factor) -20.
TOTAL: 85 points

PLUSES: Golden Globe winner +30; appreciated for charity work +25; Acceptance Speech Factor (he’ll be a hoot) +20; two previous nominations with no win +10.
MINUSES: Part seems lightweight compared with other nominees’ -20; performance is that same old Robin Williams shtick -15.
TOTAL: 50 points


GEENA DAVIS Thelma & Louise
PLUSES: Accent (Southern hick) +30; feminist support +25; sex appeal +20; Davis’ kooky Thelma is more flamboyant part than Louise +20; National Board of Review cowinner +15.
MINUSES: Same constituency as costar Susan Sarandon (Split Vote Factor) -35; no votes from insecure males -20; already has Oscar (share the wealth) -15.
TOTAL: 40 points

LAURA DERN Rambling Rose
PLUSES: Accent (Southern) +30; bright young talent on the verge of stardom +20; opportunity for mother-daughter winners may be irresistible +20; sex appeal +20; good genes (Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd) +5.
MINUSES: Actors in films from nonmajor studios rarely win -25; slight box office -20.
TOTAL: 50 points

JODIE FOSTER The Silence of the Lambs
PLUSES: Golden Globe and New York Film Critics winner +50; could be part of a Silence sweep +25; respected within the industry and on this year’s top-10- box-office list +20; category’s only nominee in Best Picture contender +20.
MINUSES: Part seems subdued next to scenery-chewing Hopkins’ -30; won Best Actress three years ago (share the wealth) -25.
TOTAL: 60 points

PLUSES: Appreciated for charity work +20; Golden Globe winner +20; ages on screen in spanning-the-decades part +20; Acceptance Speech Factor (Divine Miss M at the podium) +15; sympathy vote because nobody saw her dream project +10.
MINUSES: Poor box office -35; picture got no other nominations -25.
TOTAL: 25 points

SUSAN SARANDON Thelma & Louise
PLUSES: Accent (Southern hick) +30; appreciated for charity work and political activism +30; feminist support +25; Mea Culpa Factor (has never won) +20; sex appeal +20; National Board of Review cowinner +15; pregnant winners always fun (Meryl Streep, Eva Marie Saint) +5; was in cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (seminal growing-up experience for younger members) +5.
MINUSES: Same constituency as costar Geena Davis (Split Vote Factor) -35; Sarandon’s sensible Louise not as flamboyant as Thelma -20; no votes from insecure males -20; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 65 points


PLUSES: Tough guy goes gay in change-of-pace role +40; could be part of JFK sweep +25; comeback (no hit theatrical film for a while) +15; Mea Culpa Factor (never nominated before) +10.
MINUSES: Villains and gay characters rarely win (he plays a gay villain) -30; understated performance -15.
TOTAL: 45 points

PLUSES: Also prominent in sympathetic role in Thelma & Louise +20; veteran character actor never nominated +15; National Society of Film Critics winner +15; could be part of a Bugsy sweep +10; member of Scorsese-De Niro in- crowd +10; goes bald for role A la Oscar winners Dean Jagger and Yul Brynner +5.
MINUSES: Costar Ben Kingsley also nominated (Split Vote Factor) -35; Joe Pesci won this category last year as another crude, vicious gangster (enough already) -10.
TOTAL: 30 points

PLUSES: Gandhi goes gangster in change of pace +30; accent (Lower East Side) +30; British (Prestige Factor) +10; could be part of Bugsy sweep +10.
MINUSES: Costar Keitel also nominated (Split Vote Factor) -35; only one in this category to have won before (share the wealth) -20.
TOTAL: 25 points

PLUSES: Cinderella Factor (journeyman character actor finally hits it big) +35; L.A. Film Critics winner +25; voting for his sleazy movie mogul enables industryites to tweak their bosses +25.
MINUSES: Arty, nihilistic film with minimal audience -25; little screen time -25.
TOTAL: 35 points

JACK PALANCE City Slickers
PLUSES: Sentimental choice with third nomination (he tried to murder Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear in 1952 and dueled Alan Ladd in Shane in 1953) +35; Golden Globe winner +35; endearing role in film that made more money than all his competitors’ combined +25; only nomination for City Slickers +15.
MINUSES: Comedy performances perennially undervalued by Academy -25; self- parody not much of a stretch -20; wore a business suit to black-tie Golden Globes -5.
TOTAL: 60 points


DIANE LADD Rambling Rose
PLUSES: Opportunity for mother-daughter winners may be irresistible +25; career award for going from drive-in movies (The Wild Angels) to A-list parties (Liz Taylor’s birthday) +20; nominated twice before +20; shows virtuosity by playing nurturing mother after loony mom last year in Wild at Heart +20; will use clout to do her dream film on Watergate-era oddity Martha Mitchell +10.
MINUSES: Actors in films made by nonmajor studios rarely win -25; slight box office -20.
TOTAL: 50 points

PLUSES: Able to hold her own with De Niro +35; exciting newcomer (love interest in upcoming Woody Allen film) +20; plans to bring beau Brad Pitt (Thelma & Louise) to ceremonies, adding to show’s glamour quotient +5.
MINUSES: Offended Academy by saying her nomination “doesn’t change the condition of the world” -45; Hollywood finds film unpleasant -25; young enough to win in the future -10.
TOTAL: -20 points

KATE NELLIGAN The Prince of Tides
PLUSES: Ages on screen from young beauty to bitter matron +15; shows moxie for becoming character actress after stab at leading lady didn’t work out +10; only one in category in a Best Picture nominee +10; Acceptance Speech Factor (will praise Streisand) +10; good breeding (New York and London stage) +10; National Board of Review Award (albeit for Frankie & Johnny) +5.
MINUSES: Little screen time -20; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 30 points

PLUSES: L.A. Film Critics winner (as Lead Actress) and Golden Globe +50; The Fisher King unlikely to win any other Oscars +20; good breeding (New York stage) +10; won the Tony last spring for role she’ll re-create in Lost in Yonkers movie +5.
MINUSES: Performance goes over the top -20; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 55 points

JESSICA TANDY Fried Green Tomatoes
PLUSES: Beloved thespian has bumped Helen Hayes from the title of Grand Old Lady of American Acting (even though she was born in Britain) +30; warm role in popular film +20; only one of Tomatoes’ quartet of actresses nominated +20.
MINUSES: Won Best Actress just two years ago (share the wealth) -25.
TOTAL: 45 points


JONATHAN DEMME The Silence of the Lambs
PLUSES: Directors Guild winner +50; New York Film Critics and National Board of Review winner +35; made crowd-pleasing thriller that critics loved too +25; has inventive, offbeat portfolio (Melvin and Howard, Stop Making Sense, etc.) +10.
MINUSES: Lurid nature of film -25; lives in New York -10.
TOTAL: 85 points

PLUSES: L.A. Film Critics winner +35; nominated for Directors Guild award +25; perceived as Hollywood player with an artistic vision +20.
MINUSES: Won for 1988’s Rain Man (share the wealth) -15; needed $40 million to tell a gangster story -10.
TOTAL: 55 points

RIDLEY SCOTT Thelma & Louise
PLUSES: Nominated for Directors Guild award +25; might get the feminist vote that would have gone to Streisand +15.
MINUSES: Film’s not up for Best Picture -45; insecure males might consider him a traitor to his gender -10.
TOTAL: -15 points

PLUSES: Could make history as the first black filmmaker and youngest director +35.
MINUSES: Film’s not up for Best Picture -45; no Directors Guild nomination -25; too young (Envy Factor) -15.
TOTAL: -50 points

PLUSES: Golden Globe winner +40; sympathy because of assaults he’s endured from high-minded journalists +35; seen by Hollywood as more than a filmmaker- he’s a crusader, too +30; nominated for Directors Guild award +25; tireless campaigner +20.
MINUSES: Tiresome campaigner -35; martyr complex -20; already has two Oscars for Best Director (share the wealth) -20.
TOTAL: 75 points


Beauty and the Beast
PLUSES: Chance to make history by giving top Oscar to an animated film +45; only all-out “feel-good” movie nominated +45; last G-rated musical winner was Oliver!, 23 years ago (Family Values Factor) +35; Golden Globe winner +30; $100 million-grossers club +20; victory would be a tribute to late lyricist Howard Ashman +15.
MINUSES: Actors, making up biggest block of members, may be wary of voting for movie in which none of them appear -35; anti-Jeffrey Katzenberg sentiment -30; kid-oriented movies usually don’t win (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) -30; no director or screenplay nominations -20.
TOTAL: 75 points

PLUSES: L.A. Film Critics and Golden Globe (drama) winner +50; 10 nominations indicate wide support +30; period pieces have won 8 of the past 10 years +15; tribute to old-fashioned Hollywood glossiness +15.
MINUSES: Disappointing box office -35; Warren Beatty movies have never won Best Picture -15.
TOTAL: 60 points

PLUSES: Forced Congress to consider opening sealed assassination files (Hollywood affects history) +45; a vote for First Amendment +45; reflects the liberal politics of most members +35; technical tour de force +30; period piece +15; cassettes mailed to voters +10; voters have been fond of all-star epics in the past (Around the World in 80 Days, for example) +10.
MINUSES: Maybe too controversial -40; very mixed reviews -30; film plays loose with facts, even by Hollywood standards -25; Acceptance Speech Factor (Stone lecture: “What you’re saying is our government lied to us,” etc.) -20.
TOTAL: 75 points

PLUSES: Skillful condensation of massive novel +35; family drama a popular Academy genre +25; Acceptance Speech Factor (“Hello, gorgeous!”) +25; tribute to old-fashioned Hollywood glossiness +15; backlash victory for picture whose director was slighted (Driving Miss Daisy did it two years ago) +10; chance to give Streisand a picture Oscar to go along with her awards for actress (1968) and song (1976) +10.
MINUSES: Not nominated for Best Director -30; mixed reviews -25; Streisand’s distracting fingernails -20; hard-to-take love scenes -15.
TOTAL: 30 points

PLUSES: New York Film Critics, Producers Guild of America, National Board of Review winner +50; foundering studio Orion needs all the encouragement it can get +45; $100 million-grossers club +20; cassettes mailed to voters +10; film having second wind through cable showings +10.
MINUSES: Too lurid -35; genre is not an Oscar favorite (last thriller to win was The French Connection 20 years ago) -20.
TOTAL: 80 points