Oscars in January? Not quite. But yesterday at Manhattan's historic Algonquin Hotel, the National Society of Film Critics provided a preview. In their annual awards meeting, the 39 critics from the country's leading magazines and newspapers voted for their favorite films, actors and actresses of 1987. Their choices were: Best Film, John Huston's swan song, "The Dead"; Best Director, John Boorman for "Hope and Glory"; Best Actor, Steve Martin for "Roxanne"; Best Actress, Emily Lloyd for "Wish You Were Here"; Best Supporting Actor, Morgan Freeman for "Street Smart"; Best Supporting Actress, Kathy Baker, also for "Street Smart"; Best Screenplay, Boorman's script for "Hope and Glory"; Best Cinematography, Philippe Rousselot for "Hope and Glory."

The runners-up included Albert Brooks (for "Broadcast News"), Diane Keaton (for "Baby Boom"), Sean Connery (for "The Untouchables"), Vanessa Redgrave (for "Prick Up Your Ears") and Ethan and Joel Coen's screenplay (for "Raising Arizona"). The society also awarded a special citation to Richard Roud, the former director of the New York Film Festival, for his "vital role in introducing international cinema to the American audience.

A Rerun for Ron?

It pays to have Hope, as in Bob. It might also be amusing to have a few thousand dollars to spend on a party. With tickets ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 a pair for Saturday night's dedication ceremonies for the new Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, Calif., one's expectations might be on the high side. And Hope delivered. Though there were some disappointing no-shows -- Kirk Douglas, Mary Martin and George C. Scott -- those who were there had fun with the "Made in America" comedian.

Lucille Ball, John Forsythe, Diahann Carroll and husband Vic Damone, and President and Mrs. Reagan were among those in stitches when Hope thanked Reagan for saying "nice things" about him -- even if he's "not Russian." Though Hope modestly insisted that naming a cultural center for him was like "naming a monastery for Gary Hart," President Reagan, who presented the 84-year-old comedian with the first "America's Hope Award," was not reticent. He said Hope "has given us the most precious gift of all -- the gift of laughter," and later added that Hope's name is "a description of his life, and where there is life, there is Hope." But it was the honoree himself who had the last yuk. He had a suggestion for Reagan. "After you finish your term," he said, "you might want to come here and do a stage run of 'King's Row.' "

Betty Ford Goes Home

Former first lady Betty Ford went home from the hospital yesterday morning, four days after undergoing an operation to mend an incision from earlier open-heart surgery, hospital officials said. Mrs. Ford, 69, was admitted to the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Tuesday after experiencing sudden weakness following dinner. Physicians diagnosed her as having a poorly healing incision made during her open-heart bypass operation in November, and she underwent a two-hour operation to mend the incision. She will continue to recuperate at home in Rancho Mirage, a hospital spokesman said.

Connally's Belongings Head for Auction

The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that several moving vans are expected to pull up to John Connally's ranch in Floresville, Tex., this week and haul away just about every "personal belonging" there. The items will be taken to a Houston auction house, where they will be sold later this month. The proceeds, predicted to be $1 million to $2 million, will go to the bankrupt Connally's creditors.

"It's going to be difficult to see them move things out of that house that have been there since 1963," said the former governor, treasury secretary and GOP presidential candidate. "But we're reconciled to it. We want to do it. We think we should do it." Connally filed for bankruptcy last July, listing $93.3 million in debts and $13 million in assets.

Jim Brady's Story to Be Filmed

Washington free-lance writer Mollie Dickenson has gotten her new year off to a terrific start. Dickenson, whose biography of White House Press Secretary Jim Brady -- "Thumbs Up" -- was published in November, has just learned that Warner Bros. Studios has optioned her book for a feature film. Its producer will be David Puttnam, the recently deposed chairman of Columbia Pictures, who produced "The Killing Fields" and "Chariots of Fire." Dickenson says Brady told her he's holding out for actor Tom Selleck to play his role.

Chuck Conconi is on vacation