George Clooney "The Descendants"
Leonardo Dicaprio "J. Edgar"
Jean Dujardin "The Artist"
Gary Oldman "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
Brad Pitt "Moneyball"
Other Contenders - Woody Harrelson "Rampart", Michael Fassbender "Shame", Ryan Gosling "Drive", Ryan Gosling "The Ides of March", Michael Shannon "Take Shelter", Jeremy Irvine "War Horse", Thomas Horn "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", Joseph Gordon-Levitt "50/50", Matt Damon "We Bought a Zoo", Demian Bichir "A Better Life", Paul Giamatti "Win Win", Christoph Waltz "Carnage"
Commentary - Some of the outside contenders have a decent shot, but face some roadblocks such as unlikable character (Harrelson), competing performances (Gosling), small film (Shannon), NC-17 and tough sell (Fassbender). Plus the five guys that I am predicting all have highly buzzed projects and/or well-liked by the Academy. One such individual is George Clooney who seems destined to get a nomination once every couple of years. This time, his character in The Descendants may be one of the most emotional, and as the lead that carries a Best Picture contender, I think it will be hard for the Academy to pass him up. There are some crowd pleasers here as well, especially with Dujardin and Pitt, who both give likeable, and well-crafted performances in buzzed films. I expect both of them to last the whole season. While I am still hearing conflicting reviews and early word regarding J. Edgar, I think I will keep Dicaprio in until I hear otherwise. Playing a real person in a Clint Eastwood film is right up the Academy's alley. Finally, I am crossing my fingers that the incredibly ignored, yet deserving Gary Oldman gets in for his spy thriller. The buzz seems to have died a little bit since the festivals, but I think it will come back strong once released in theaters, and Oldman's performance is sure to be the hot topic.