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GOLD DERBY / Tom O'Neil

Full Of Intrigue

November 18, 2009|Tom O'Neil

The acting contests are packed with drama as award newbies (Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, Jeremy Renner) square off against overdue A-listers (Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon) and veterans (Jeff Bridges, Christopher Plummer). There is also a lot of movie-like suspense because there are many front-runners but no clear favorites.

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LEAD ACTOR

Front-runners

Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"

Nicolas Cage, "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"

George Clooney, "Up in the Air"

Matt Damon, "The Informant!"

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Nine"

Robert De Niro, "Everybody's Fine"

Colin Firth, "A Single Man"

Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"

Viggo Mortensen, "The Road"

Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Michael Stuhlbarg, "A Serious Man"

Spotlight: Bridges enters this race late because Fox Searchlight wants a new top Oscar contender following the recent crash of "Amelia's" trophy hopes. Bridges is a fave of academy members, with four past nominations ("Starman" in lead; "The Contender," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" and "The Last Picture Show" in supporting). Portraying a boozy country singer helped Joaquin Phoenix to be nominated for "Walk the Line," but he didn't win.

Possible

Sharlto Copley, "District 9"

Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"

Ben Foster, "The Messenger"

Hal Holbrook, "That Evening Sun"

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "(500) Days of Summer"

Tobey Maguire, "Brothers"

James McAvoy, "The Last Station"

Joaquin Phoenix, "Two Lovers"

Sam Rockwell, "Moon"

Michael Sheen, "The Damned United"

Spotlight: Michael Sheen was snubbed despite starring in best picture nominees "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon." Now he comes out swinging as a hot-headed British soccer manager in "The Damned United," one of the first DVD screeners shipped to Oscar voters in late October.

Long shots

Paul Bettany, "Creation"

Michael Cera, "Youth in Revolt"

Clive Owen, "The Boys Are Back"

Mark Wahlberg, "The Lovely Bones"

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LEAD ACTRESS

Front-runners

Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"

Marion Cotillard, "Nine"

Abbie Cornish, "Bright Star"

Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"

Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"

Carey Mulligan, "An Education"

Saoirse Ronan, "The Lovely Bones"

Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Audrey Tautou, "Coco Before Chanel"

Spotlight: This award has gone to an actress portraying a real person seven times in the last 10 years. That's good news for these current front-runners: Bullock (as courageous mom Leigh Anne Touhy), Cornish (John Keats' lover Fanny Brawne), Mirren (Leo Tolstoy's wife, Sofya), Streep (gourmet Julia Child) and Tautou (Coco Chanel).

Possible

Shohreh Aghdashloo, "The Stoning of Soraya M."

Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"

Penelope Cruz, "Broken Embraces"

Zooey Deschanel, "(500) Days of Summer"

Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Antichrist"

Michelle Monaghan, "Trucker"

Gwyneth Paltrow, "Two Lovers"

Catalina Saavedra, "The Maid"

Meryl Streep, "It's Complicated"

Hilary Swank, "Amelia"

Tilda Swinton, "Julia"

Spotlight: Little-known stars of small indies usually get nominated only if DVDs are sent to academy members. Producers of "Trucker" did ship screeners of Monaghan's critically acclaimed performance as a bohemian truck driver. No such luck for "The Maid," but voters may know it because the Chilean film about a feisty domestic servant won two awards at Sundance and earned Gotham Award nominations for best feature and for Saavedra's performance.

Longshots

Amy Adams, "Julie & Julia"

Brenda Blethyn, "London River"

Jennifer Connelly, "Creation"

Katie Jarvis, "Fish Tank"

Bryce Dallas Howard, "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"

Michelle Pfeiffer, "Cheri"

Charlize Theron, "The Burning Plain"

Robin Wright, "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee"

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SUPPORTING ACTOR

Front-runners

Matt Damon, "Invictus"

Paul Giamatti, "The Last Station"

Jude Law, "Sherlock Holmes"

Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker"

Alfred Molina, "An Education"

Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"

Peter Sarsgaard, "An Education"

Stanley Tucci, "Julie & Julia"

Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"

Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

Spotlight: Christopher Plummer starred in Oscar best pictures "The Sound of Music" and "A Beautiful Mind," and he has won many industry honors (two Emmys plus several film critics' awards), but he's never been nominated by the academy and wasn't even invited to join as a member until 2007. Now he has two strong pluses: He portrays a real, heroic person (Leo Tolstoy) and he competes in a category widely known as a veteran's achievement award (past champs include Alan Arkin, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Jack Palance).

Possible

Alec Baldwin, "It's Complicated"

Robert Duvall, "Crazy Heart"

Robert Duvall, "The Road"

Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brothers"

Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"

Nicholas Hoult, "A Single Man"

Richard Kind, "A Serious Man"

Steve Martin, "It's Complicated"

Spotlight: There's one way to make this year's Oscars truly and hilariously complicated -- nominate both ceremony hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in this category.

Long shots

Peter Capaldi, "In the Loop"

Rupert Friend, "The Young Victoria"

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