Oscar's biggest problem this year: the lack of good female roles, making it hard to come up with five Best Actress nominees by Feb. 17, when the nominees are to be announced.
EMMA THOMPSON easily leads the pack, since the British actress has scored all the major critics' awards and a Golden Globe for Howards End.
SUSAN SARANDON's fierce performance in Lorenzo's Oil should appeal to the Academy, which might compensate her for its Thelma & Louise rebuff last year.
SHIRLEY MACLAINE could squeak in for Used People, mostly because she's a perennial Oscar favorite, with six nominations and one win.
MIRANDA RICHARDSON is new to Hollywood, but a Golden Globe for Enchanted April has boosted her chances. Also, supporting roles in Damage and The Crying Game have upped her visibility.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG's nunsense in Sister Act is a lightweight star turn, but the Best Supporting Actress winner (Ghost) may be drafted to fill a slot.
GEENA DAVIS' headlining in A League of Their Own could also make her a player.
MICHELLE PFEIFFER is competing against herself. Warner Bros. is promoting her whip-cracking romp in Batman Returns, while Orion is pushing her period performance in Love Field, at the risk of splitting her votes.
MARY MCDONNELL's showcase, Passion Fish, is an indie movie and thus relatively low-profile. But she spends most of the film in a wheelchair, and Oscar has a weakness for actors who tackle disabilities.
CATHERINE DENEUVE (Indochine) has to be considered a long shot, given that she shares the screen with subtitles, but her undeniable glamour would sure look good at the March 29 ceremonies.