Colin Firth (’A Single Man’)
The Buzz: Hot off Firth’s Best Actor win at the Venice Film Festival, this gay-themed drama became a must-see at Toronto and was scooped up for distribution by the Weinsten Company. Says IndieWire’s Anne Thompson, “Firth is a slam dunk for his first Oscar nomination.”
Matt Damon (’The Informant’)
The Buzz: It’s not just the love handles and ’stache that have people excited about Damon’s performance in Steven Soderbergh’s corporate crime dramedy. Variety calls him “excellent.”
George Clooney (’Up in the Air’)
The Buzz: What’s this, a potential battle between pals Damon and Clooney? Where’s Pitt? Clooney is said to be in top form as a corporate downsizer whose life revolves around racking up frequent flyer miles.
Michael Stuhlbarg (’A Serious Man’)
The Buzz: Not only does the relatively unknown Stuhlbarg carry the Coen brothers’ latest (in their most personal tale, he portrays a fictional version of their father), he also gets his heads slammed against the chalkboard. Repeatedly.
Viggo Mortensen (’The Road’)
The Buzz: Well, buzz has not been stellar around the long-delayed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, but Viggo is still drawing props. “Another Oscar nomination seems likely, if only because Mortensen feels overdue,” writes Anne Thompson.
Daniel Day-Lewis (’Nine’)
The Buzz: Considering he turns everything he touches into gold, should we have any doubt that the two-time Best Actor winner can’t sing and dance like the best of them as well? We wouldn’t bet against it.
Robert Duvall (’Get Low’)
The Buzz: Six-time nominee Duvall looks to have found another ‘Apostle,’ a quiet Southern-set drama with award potential. IndieWire’s Anne Thompson calls it a “heartbreaking, Oscar-worthy performance.”
Clive Owen (’The Boys Are Back’)
The Buzz: Oscar loves when performers flip the script, and here Owen does do something remarkably different: He refrains from kicking ass. Still, the onetime nominee is still a long shot for this family drama from the director of ‘Shine.’
Mark Wahlberg (’The Lovely Bones’)
The Buzz: Wahlberg can thank Ryan Gosling, who stepped down from the role of a father searching for his daughter’s killer, if he scores his second Oscar nom in four years.
Ben Whishaw (’Bright Star’)
The Buzz: Director Jane Campion (’The Piano’) deliberately went with a “lesser known” face to portray ill-fated English poet John Keats, and with the attention his performance has been getting, it was a damn good call.
Morgan Freeman (’Invictus’)
The Buzz: Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, in a film directed Clint Eastwood? This is a biopic match made in heaven; cue the stars ready to align.
Sharlto Copley (’District 9?)
The Buzz: There’s a great back story — unknown actor headlines one of summer’s unlikeliest hits. But for now Copley remains a horse as dark as the (SPOILER ALERT!) “prawn” he transforms into.
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