Javier Bardem, “Biutiful”
Bardem offers a mesmerizing perf as a devoted father whose soul is taken in several uncomfortable directions. Helmer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s bleak and haunting look at life in the Barcelona ghettos will resonate long after the theater lights go up.
If not for his first Oscar win last year in “Crazy Heart,” Bridges might have received more buzz for this Coen brothers pic. Yet it’s impossible not to appreciate what Bridges has borrowed from John Wayne while adding his own inspired vision.
Michael Douglas, “Solitary Man”
Despite battling health issues, the bigscreen vet nailed two solid roles this year and he may be a sentimental choice. He was a charming lout in well-made indie “Solitary Man,” and it was nice to see him partake in scenes alongside longtime buddy Danny DeVito.
Aaron Eckhart, “Rabbit Hole”
Raw emotions are front and center in this searing drama about parents who have to endure the tragedy of losing their 4-year-old son to a car accident. Eckhart stands toe to toe with Nicole Kidman, who offers one of her finest performances in years.
Paul Giamatti, “Barney’s Version”
Supporting actor extraordinaire Giamatti gets top billing as a TV producer who drinks and smokes too much but has a wonderfully insatiable lust for third wife Rosamund Pike. Film will have to get in front of enough voters for its actors to have a chance, though.
Mark Wahlberg, “The Fighter”
With so many others being thought of as Oscar possibilities — Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo — the numbers might not work to the Boston native’s advantage. Yet Wahlberg might be just as satisfied with a best picture nom, as he shepherded the project to the bigscreen.
The buck goes there
Leonard DiCaprio | Robert Duvall | Jesse Eisenberg | Colin Firth |James Franco | Ryan Gosling
Lead actors in the mix
Andrew Garfield | Jeremy Renner | Geoffrey Rush | Mark Ruffalo | Christian Bale | Sam Rockwell
Supporting actors in the mix