Leonardo DiCaprio - J Edgar
Jean Dujardin -The Artist
The Cannes Best Actor winner is the charming centre of a film the Academy is sure to love - a sweet, old-school black-&-white silent film about show business & movie making. He won over the french and, unless the film flops in the States, is sure to charm his way onto many Academy voters' ballots.
Gary Oldman - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Sid & Nancy, Prick Up Your Ears, JFK or The Contender, not to mention his long-list of iconic crazies & oddballs. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy gives him the chance to lead a large, fantastic cast with a subtle complex performance. Time will tell if it will be enough.
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Ryan Gosling - Drive / The Ides of March
Gosling's intense, understated & largely silent performance in Drive seems destined to be an iconic standout in his already-impressive resume, but it could be too edgy / subtle / cool for Academy voters. His lead performance in George Clooney's political thriller Ides of March is yet to be seen but has all the makings of an Oscar-friendly journey from idealism to compromise. Gosling is an exceptional young actor who was overlooked for his astonishing performance in last year's Blue Valentine but is fast becoming impossible to ignore.
Michael Fassbender - Shame / Dangerous Method / Jane Eyre
Michael Fassbender burned his way to critical acclaim as Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen's 2008 hunger strike drama, Hunger, and into the public consciousness as slick, doomed Lt Archie Hicox in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. And he has been very busy since. Just this year, he has impressed critics as the bitter man who becomes Magneto in X-Men: First Class, an intense and untamed Rochester in Jane Eyre, and groundbreaking psychoanalyst Carl Jung in David
Cronenberg's psychological drama,
A Dangerous Method. But it was his turn as Brandon, a troubled sex addict negotiating endless sexual escapades & his complicated relationship with his troubled sister (Carey Mulligan) in Steve McQueen's latest, Shame, that saw him win Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival and step into the Oscar golden circle. Provided voters can stomach the edgy subject matter, his performance in Shame is sure to put him on the map.
Thomas Horn - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A 9-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player, pacifist and all-round lovable eccentric searches New York for the lock that matches the mysterious key left by his father who died in the World Trade Center attacks.
Christopher Plummer - Barrymore
Larger than life biopic of John Barrymore.
Joseph Gordon Levitt - 50 / 50
20-something finds the courage & humour to fight his cancer diagnosis.
Johnny Depp - The Rum Diary
Johnny Depp is back in the world of Hunter S Thompson's eccentricities & drinks lots of rum.
Rhys Ifans - Anonymous
Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, claims to be the true writer of Shakespeare's plays in Elizabethan England.
Gerard Butler - Machine Gun Preacher
A former drug-addict biker finds God, moves to Africa and becomes a crusader for Sudanese child soldiers.
Ralph Fiennes - Coriolanus
Ralph Fiennes directs himself in a modern Shakespeare adaptation of power, politics and revenge.
Should be Contenders, but Won't Be:
Andy Serkis - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The special effects, not the motion-capture performance, will get the credit, but Caesar is a thrilling creating and a stirring, complex character.
Paul Giamatti - Win Win
Paul Giamatti fully inhabits an everyday suburban guy who stresses out trying to do everything right, and steers his life into shambles when he grows weary and bends the rules just once.
John Boyega - Attack the Block
London gang leader turns earth defender.