Movie Article

Best Supporting Actor

Who's up for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar

This category's contenders are so geographically diverse they could form a mini-U.N. Two sure bets hail from these shores: Tim Robbins, a 1996 Best Director nominee for ''Dead Man Walking,'' is certain to earn his first acting recognition as ''Mystic River'''s tortured abuse victim and murder suspect. (Though equally deserving, castmate Kevin Bacon, who plays the film's investigating officer, may fall prey to his role's less showy nature.) Alec Baldwin, a veteran of over three dozen films, is gunning for his first nomination with his frightening turn as the fierce casino boss in ''The Cooler''; a Globe nomination and an early win from the National Board of Review bode well.

From across the pond, Albert Finney, who received his first Oscar nod 40 years ago for ''Tom Jones'' and his most recent for 2000's ''Erin Brockovich,'' should score his sixth as ''Big Fish'''s dying storyteller, though his countrymate Paul Bettany, a.k.a. '''''s steadfast Dr. Stephen Maturin, may find himself edged out of this crowded category (nomination morning should be nerve-racking in the Bettany household, since wife Jennifer Connelly is also a potential Oscar contender this year). Puerto Rico-born Benicio Del Toro, a Best Supporting Actor winner three years ago for ''Traffic,'' was missing from the Globes list but can probably count on his strong Academy following to include his gripping work as ''21 Grams''' conflicted ex-con.

The final slot could go to West African actor Djimon Hounsou, who many voters felt deserved a nomination for ''Amistad'' a few years back, and who provides much of ''In America'''s emotional punch as a gruff but compassionate AIDS patient. Or to Brit Bill Nighy, who owns most of ''Love Actually'''s biggest laughs as a crude rocker who will do almost anything to secure a Christmastime comeback on the charts. Or to American scene-stealer Eugene Levy as '''''s speech-challenged folkster (a critics' favorite, he's already won Best Supporting Actor from the New York Film Critics Circle). Or to '''' hobbit Sean Astin, who has the most moving role in the ''Lord of the Rings'' finale; his buzz should only increase as the movie continues to rake in the bucks. Or to one of a trio of respected actors from the summer hit ''Seabiscuit'': trainer Chris Cooper (who won this award last year for ''Adaptation''), horse owner Jeff Bridges (a four-time nominee over the last 32 years), or riotous sportscaster William H. Macy, the only actor from the film to make the cut at the Globes -- playing, ironically, the only major role that wasn't in Laura Hillenbrand's book. Of course, voters could say neigh to ''Seabiscuit,'' in which case the edge, so to speak, goes to the man from Japan, '''''s master swordsmith Ken Watanabe, who imbued his debut American film role with the dignity of a first-rate diplomat.

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