The best supporting actress award is often conferred by the Academy as a signal of arrival for rising starlets (Uma Thurman in 1994, Kate Winslet in 1996, Angelina Jolie in 2000) on their way to becoming stars. So it’s not surprising that of the 2006 nominees, it’s the three young and beautiful first-time nominated actresses who are the favorites to win.

Morgan Morel
Rachel Weisz is the favorite after her win at the Golden Globes. (Courtesy of Focus)

Perhaps slightly behind the other two is Michele Williams, who played the concerned, confused wife of Heath Ledger’s Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain.” Though she shone in her inspired performance, the film is likely to walk away with a number of major awards outside this category and the Academy won’t hesitate to overlook her. On the other hand, “Brokeback’s” nominations could play out like “The Return of the King” in 2004, which swept up 11 awards, including many it was not expected to win. Should Oscar become similarly enamored with “Brokeback,” Williams could pull an upset.

More likely to grab the gold, however, is the little-known Amy Adams, who played a simple, kindhearted Southern wife in “Junebug.” Though this is Adams’s first major film, she’s a strong contender given her flawless performance and the Academy’s fascination with rewarding at least one performance from a film that won’t go on to win any other awards (Jamie Foxx last year, Charlize Theron and Ren

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