Only two things could stop EDWARD NORTON’s [A] nomination: Edward Norton and Edward Norton. With three roles – his riveting debut as an accused murderer in Primal Fear; his square lawyer in Larry Flynt; and his song-and-dance man in Everyone Says I Love You – Norton, 27, could split his own vote. Still, Paramount’s push for his performance in Fear will probably win out.

The Academy has two reasons to nominate SAMUEL L. JACKSON [B]for A Time to Kill: rewarding the actor for years of good work, and giving a nod to Kill, a well-reviewed summer hit. Similarly, just as a general affection for Babe resulted in a nod last year for James Cromwell, the nominations should look favorably on WILLIAM H. MACY [C], the scheming husband in Fargo. PAUL SCOFIELD [D], The Crucible’s stern judge, has already won an Oscar (for 1966’s A Man for All Seasons); plus, he has an English accent, which has been known to seduce Oscar voters. And Jerry Maguire’s hot streak could bode well for CUBA GOODING JR. [E], whose portrait of a pumped-up football player has recharged his career.

Yet the race is fluid. Also in the running: ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL, Shine’s dominating dad; HARRY BELAFONTE, Kansas City’s Mob boss; LEONARDO DICAPRIO, Marvin’s Room’s moody teen; and DEREK JACOBI, Hamlet’s Claudius.

A few months ago, a trailer for Ghosts of Mississippi raised expectations for JAMES WOODS as unapologetic racist Byron De La Beckwith. But the film underwhelmed critics and failed to give Woods a big, scenery-chewing scene. When it comes to snaring an Oscar nomination, never scrimp on the ham.



GEOFFREY RUSH’s portrayal of piano prodigy David Helfgott in Shine is one of the year’s most talked-about performances. If he wins, he’d do well to thank his 27-year-old costar, Noah Taylor, whose quiet, intense turn as the young Helfgott may be the year’s most not talked about. Without him, Rush might never have had the chance to shine.