Amend that old lament that ”there are no good parts for women” to ”there are no good parts for American women.” Unlike the Best Picture race — where hometown movies rule — the Best Actress field looks as if it will be dominated by true Brits. Certainly, no one could be more British than Dame JUDI DENCH (1), putting aside her alter ego as James Bond’s M to go into mourning as a stately Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown — and with a Miramax full-court press behind her, she’s almost sure to be crowned with a nomination.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER (2), appearing as an Edwardian adventuress playing for both money and love in The Wings of the Dove, has already found favor with the L.A. Film Critics and the National Board of Review. And her fellow countrywoman KATE WINSLET (3) — don’t let that American accent she adopted fool you — similarly loosened her corset, winning the hearts of millions of moviegoers in a Titanic performance the Academy would be hard-pressed to ignore. Even JULIE CHRISTIE (4) — whose 1965 Darling made her an emblem of London’s swinging ’60s — could be back. Her portrait of an adulterous wife in Alan Rudolph’s Afterglow was toasted by both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, and though it failed to win a Golden Globe nomination, Academy voters are buzzing about how glowing she still looks.

So it may be up to HELEN HUNT (5) to carry the American flag. After capturing two Emmys for her role in NBC’s Mad About You, she’s a popular presence in Hollywood, and her gumption as a put-upon waitress in As Good as It Gets is winning both laughter and applause. But if Academy voters instead opt for the tried-and-true, several of the usual suspects can’t be discounted. Two-time winner JODIE FOSTER (The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs) has a shot with Contact, though the summer sci-fi movie may not prove serious enough for Academy tastes. And two-time winner JESSICA LANGE (Tootsie, Blue Sky) was dependably dramatic in A Thousand Acres, though the movie was barely a blip at the box office.

If the Academy prefers pure star power, JULIA ROBERTS, last nominated in 1991 for Pretty Woman, could be drafted for returning to her romantic-comedy roots in My Best Friend’s Wedding. And if nostalgia reigns, there’s always PAM GRIER, making her own midlife comeback in the crime drama Jackie Brown. Hmm…Mrs. Brown versus Ms. Brown — that’s a fight we’d like to see. — GK



Oh, how we wish we could point to a flawless but overlooked performance by, say, Susan Sarandon, Laura Dern, or Meryl Streep and call it a deserving long shot. But alas, in ’97, American actresses were so underrepresented on screen that it will be a major surprise if more than two are nominated. Here’s hoping that in 1998 there are enough challenging roles for women so that some great performances will have to be ignored. But in this year’s race, what you see is all there is.