Forced to face their demons, these noms must contend with family issues, a failing

marriage, an immovable object, litigious Harvard colleagues and even a microphone.

Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
The National Board of Review’s choice for best actor, Eisenberg had the difficult task of bringing to life a bratty, brittle computer wizard who lives mostly in his head when he isn’t verbally taking apart lesser mortals in his orbit. But Eisenberg’s gift in director David Fincher’s widely praised “The Social Network” was to humanely illuminate a genius’ hidden psychology without begging for the audience’s love, and it’s vaulted this nervy, funny performer into the top ranks of young actors.

Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Firth heads into the Globes race with awards wins already from the Los Angeles and New York critics for his George VI in “The King’s Speech.” He’s a man at war with himself over the kind of painful self-examination that could help him triumph over a crippling disability but runs against everything he’s been taught as a dutiful royal. With “Speech,” Firth appears to have forever left his Mr. Darby days behind, and established himself at the forefront of estimably versatile British film actors.

James Franco, “127 Hours”
He may have been physically stuck in Danny Boyle’s true-life canyon peril saga “127 Hours,” but Franco’s ever-active onscreen charisma and whirring character intelligence gave this movie its beating, life-affirming heart. While it’s been fun to chart his current status as a Renaissance pop culture figure of sorts — he writes books, appears on soaps, goes to college, shoots funny videos — “127 Hours” reminded us all why we paid attention to Franco in the first place: The guy can act.

Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”
The Canadian-born actor’s portrayal of a rough-edged romantic in “Blue Valentine” — a first impression seducer whose deep-seated insecurities threaten to derail his marriage to a melancholy clinic worker played by Michelle Williams — feels straight out of the Cassavetes school of impassioned, turbulent character work. It’s a performance that’s helped cement this boyish-looking yet brooding actor as a dramatic marquee stalwart.

Mark Wahlberg, “The Fighter”
So much of the attention for “The Fighter” has gone to Christian Bale’s immersive embodiment of boxer Dickey Eklund, it’s been easy to overlook the still-waters-run-deep charms of Wahlberg’s performance as Dickey’s perennially also-ran brother Mickey. The HFPA didn’t, though. By turns comically understated, endearing, romantic, quietly tough and then explosively hurt, Wahlberg anchors an often raucous story of frayed family ties with a fierce yet steady simmer, and recalls the sympathetic pugilists of great Hollywood boxing sagas of yore.

A year ago. . .

Following three previous nominations (“Starman,” “The Fisher King” and “The Contender”), Jeff Bridges won his first Golden Globe for “Crazy Heart.” The film was bought late in the year by Fox Searchlight, after Bridges was nowhere to be found when award season got its unofficial kickoff following the Toronto Film Festival. Bridges’ win was one of a handful of kudos he took home for his portrayal of an alcoholic country-western singer pining for a young newspaper reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal). He was tabbed top actor by, to name a few, the Indie Spirits, Broadcast Film Critics, L.A. Film Critics and Screen Actors Guild. While Bridges didn’t make the cut for this year’s Globes, many believe he has a chance to be Oscar nominated once again for his turn in the Coen brothers’ take of the novel “True Grit.” Bridges takes on the role of Rooster Cogburn, the role that won John Wayne his only Oscar. In a recent interview, he said was glad the Coens decided to base their film on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis, not a remake of the Wayne film. That way, he said, he wouldn’t have to base his perf on how Wayne interpreted Cogburn.
— Stuart Levine

More from The Golden Globes:
No changes set for HFPA voting process | Feisty femme characters raise TV stakes
And the nominees are:
Drama | Comedy/Musical | Drama – Actor | Drama – Actress | Comedy – Actor | Comedy – Actress
Cecil B. DeMille Award: Robert De Niro
De Niro ranges from epics to Fokkers | Dangerous De Niro brought electricity to screen