By EW Staff
Updated January 12, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Dianne Wiest has won two Supporting Actress Oscars for Woody Allen films, including one for last year’s Bullets Over Broadway. So Mira Sorvino, who’s already picked up a couple of critics’ awards, has got to have the edge for her perky prostitute in Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite. Taking a far more dramatic route, Joan Allen must be considered the other sure shot for humanizing ”Plastic Pat” in Nixon. Both Kathleen Quinlan, as the waiting wife in Apollo 13, and Kate Winslet, embodying impulsive sensibility in Sense and…, can also claim supporters. Other contenders: Anjelica Huston, playing opposite ex-beau Jack Nicholson in The Crossing Guard; Mare Winningham, the grounded folkie in Georgia; Kyra Sedgwick, Julia Roberts’ acerbic sister in Something to Talk About; or any of the imposing matriarchs played by Anne Bancroft (Home for the Holidays), Nancy Marchand (Sabrina), or Maggie Smith (Richard III).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Even though he’ll be competing with himself — this year, he’s played a physically twisted con man in The Usual Suspects, a mentally twisted killer in Seven, and a just plain twisted movie executive in Swimming With Sharks — Kevin Spacey is the odds-on favorite to cop a nomination for Suspects. His closest competition: Ed Harris, for playing ground control to Major Tom in Apollo 13; Alan Rickman, for serving as a sober suitor in Sense and Sensibility; Brad Pitt, for going crazy in 12 Monkeys; John Leguizamo, for making like Rosie Perez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar; and such relative long shots as Tim Roth (Rob Roy), Don Cheadle (Devil in a Blue Dress), and Richard Harris (Cry, the Beloved Country). And if it’s novelty the Academy craves, it can always nominate Paul Sorvino for his guttural Henry Kissinger in Nixon, giving the Supporting Actor and Actress races their first-ever father/daughter teaming.

BEST DIRECTOR The directors’ choices almost never exactly match the Best Picture nominees, so in a year rich with actors behind the camera, look for some combination of Ron Howard (Apollo 13), Rob Reiner (The American President), Clint Eastwood (The Bridges of Madison County), and Mel Gibson (Braveheart) to join such nonacting contenders as Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility), Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas), and Oliver Stone (Nixon). Still, the Academy could surprise by reaching out to Michael Radford (The Postman) or Zhang Yimou (Shanghai Triad). But don’t expect the voters to welcome 26-year-old Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) into their midst — they don’t usually like young whippersnappers.

BEST SCREENPLAY (ADAPTATION) Next to Best Actress, it’s the most crowded field around — and with the possible inclusion of actors-turned-writers Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) and Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking), the most improbably glamorous. All agree Richard LaGravenese deserves consideration for turning an unreadable book, The Bridges of Madison County, into a watchable movie (he also adapted Unstrung Heroes and A Little Princess). But he must fend off such challengers as Scott Frank’s Get Shorty, which kept most of Elmore Leonard’s quirky dialogue intact, along with William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert’s Apollo 13, Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas, Buck Henry’s deft To Die For, and Paul Auster’s Smoke, based on…a New York Times op-ed piece.