JEFF BRIDGES "Crazy Heart"
The son of legendary actor Lloyd Bridges and brother of Beau Bridges, the 60-year-old actor has received the lion's share of the awards this season -- including the Los Angeles Critics Assn., Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his touching performance as boozy country singer Bad Blake. Bridges is also nominated for a BAFTA and a Spirit Award. He received his first Oscar nomination 38 years ago in the supporting actor category for "The Last Picture Show," followed by two more nominations in that category for 1974's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" and 2000's "The Contender." He was nominated for an Academy Award for lead actor for 1984's "Starman."
GEORGE CLOONEY "Up in the Air"
The 48-year-old Clooney earns his second lead actor nomination as Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizer who begins to question his isolated life. Two years ago, he was nominated for a lead actor Oscar for " Michael Clayton," and he won a supporting actor Oscar four years ago for the spy thriller "Syriana." The prolific Clooney also was nominated in 2006 for directing and co-writing the best picture nominee "Good Night, and Good Luck." Clooney already has won several critics' honors for "Up in the Air," including the New York Film Critics Circle, as well as the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. He also garnered nominations for Golden Globe and SAG awards, as well as a BAFTA nod.
COLIN FIRTH "A Single Man"
Best known as the dreamy Mr. Darcy in the 1995 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice," the 49-year-old British actor picks up his first lead actor nomination for his role as George, a gay professor mourning the lost of his partner in the intimate drama. Firth received lead actor honors from such organizations as the Austin Film Critics Assn. and the San Francisco Film Critics Society. He was nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG and is a contender for a BAFTA and a Spirit award.
MORGAN FREEMAN "Invictus"
The 72-year-old Freeman earns his third lead actor nomination for his role as South African President Nelson Mandela, who hopes to bring his country together through a championship rugby match in Clint Eastwood's uplifting drama. Freeman previously earned nominations in this category for 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy" and 1994's " The Shawshank Redemption." He received his first Oscar nomination as supporting actor for 1987's "Street Smart" and won five years ago in that category for Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby." Freeman was nominated for Golden Globe and SAG awards this year and is also up for an NAACP Image Award for "Invictus."
JEREMY RENNER "The Hurt Locker"
The 39-year-old Renner earns his first lead actor nomination for his role as expert bomb defuser Sgt. First Class William James in the taut Iraq war drama. Renner, who has appeared in such films as "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "28 Weeks Later," won a lead actor award from the National Society of Film Critics, as well as a breakthrough performance award from the National Board of Review. He was nominated for a SAG award and has received a BAFTA nod.
SANDRA BULLOCK "The Blind Side"
The 45-year-old actress, best known for her comedic prowess, receives her first lead actress Oscar nomination as the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy, a no-nonsense Southern wife and mother in this box office blockbuster about a family that takes in a homeless African American teenager, Michael Oher. The young man became a top college football star and now plays with the Baltimore Ravens. Bullock is the year's Cinderella story -- in a few short weeks, the actress went from dark horse to Oscar favorite after winning the Critics' Choice Movie Award (she tied with Meryl Streep for "Julie & Julia"), the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama and a SAG award.
HELEN MIRREN "The Last Station"
After winning the best actress Oscar three years ago for playing Elizabeth II in "The Queen," the 64-year-old British thespian earns her second nomination in this category as Sofya, the beleaguered wife of writer Leo Tolstoy in the period drama. Mirren, who first began to get notice in Michael Powell's 1969 "The Age of Consent," earned her first Oscar nomination in the supporting category for 1994's "The Madness of King George." Mirren received Golden Globe and SAG award nominations for "Station" and is up for a Spirit award.
CAREY MULLIGAN "An Education"
For her glowing performance as Jenny, a British teenager who has an affair with an older man, the 24-year-old British performer receives her first Oscar nomination for lead actress. The petite Mulligan already has received numerous awards for her turn in the drama, including the British Independent Film Award, and the National Board of Review and the Toronto Film Critics Assn. awards. She also was nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG award and is up for a BAFTA.
GABOUREY SIDIBE "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"