A number of worthy leading men, supporting players
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Seems as if the crazier Cage’s characters are, the more attention he receives. If that’s the case, the former Oscar winner should get plenty of chatter as his post-Katrina cop is both drug- and gambling-addicted — all while dating a call girl.
Depending on the Acad’s fascination with “Invictus,” Damon could generate more consideration for his supporting turn in the Clint Eastwood pic than as the lead for Steven Soderbergh. Nonetheless, his less-than-swift corporate snitch was a testament to skillfully dumbing down.
ROBERT DE NIRO
There was a time when a De Niro nomination was as common as rush-hour traffic, but his last nom was 17 years ago (“Cape Fear”). His foray into comedy hasn’t helped his kudos chances, but “Everybody’s Fine” seems to have placed him in a genuine audience-pleaser.
Foster dials down his rage but maintains his magnetism as an Iraq War hero sent to deliver bad news to military families. After the young actor’s flashy work in “3:10 to Yuma” and “Alpha Dog,” this Gothams-nominated turn could be a breakthrough.
That Evening Sun
Oscar is often about sentimental choices, and the 84-year-old Holbrook fits that category well. However, he received his first nom two years ago for “Into the Wild,” and voters may believe that was his best chance in getting to the podium.
With very few words, and squalor and desolation all around, Mortensen strives to help his son find goodness in a postapocalyptic world. Is the Cormac McCarthy-adapted pic too bleak, though, for kudos attention?
Though Rockwell has not yet received a nomination, the layers of substance in his body of work suggest he may be due for one, with his doppelganger role in “Moon” the latest effort possibly deserving consideration. Rockwell’s nuanced portrayal of Sam Bell earns sympathy for the character without once seeming to cry out for it.
The Damned United
Sheen has co-starred in pics in which his castmate was nominated — Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” and Helen Mirren in “The Queen.” As the sole lead in this biopic about a relatively unknown English soccer coach, is that enough for a nom?
A Serious Man
A relative newcomer on the film scene, Stuhlbarg brilliantly channeled the Coen brothers’ youth in one of the year’s most polarizing pics. Not laugh-out-loud funny like other Coen comedies, the film was still biting enough to generate solid reviews.
The boisterous yin to Ben Foster’s subdued yang, Harrelson turned in a thorny, complicated portrait of an Army captain — all steely professionalism one minute, drunken neediness the next — that could net his first Oscar nomination since 1997′s “The People vs. Larry Flint.”
The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner is deservedly receiving plenty of recognition for his turn as an Iraq War bomb defuser, but Mackie offered strong supporting work as the colleague who makes sure to keep his fellow soldier in line.
Me and Orson Welles
McKay turns in one of the year’s most compelling turns as the iconic filmmaker working on the 1937 Broadway production of “Julius Caesar.” McKay captures both Welles’ brilliance and high-strung temper.
Baldwin has been winning Emmys the last few years, but film is where his versatility shines. As Meryl Streep’s ex-husband looking to rekindle the flame, his on-screen likeability and willingness to ditch a younger woman might resonate with older members of the Acad.