Following up on the inside track we recently gave you on the best-picture race, here's an update on the slugfest over best actor. Bullets alongside entries on the list below connote the five guys I think will still be standing when nominees are announced. My own favorite performance is Viggo Mortensen's at this point, but "The Road" may be too gruesome for that delicate academy crowd.
Jeff Bridges, George Clooney and Colin Firth are front-runners to win. A few weeks ago, Clooney and Firth were ahead after receiving rousing receptions at the Toronto and Venice film festivals, but Bridges is now zooming forward since Fox Searchlight jammed "Crazy Heart" onto the derby track in the home stretch. The four-time loser is an academy fave overdue to win, and he gives a flashy, deeply felt performance as a boozy country crooner.
• 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"
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"
Paul Bettany, "Creation"
Michael Cera, "Youth in Revolt"
Clive Owen, "The Boys Are Back"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Lovely Bones"
Photos, from left: Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Fox Searchlight. Colin Firth in "A Single Man." Credit: The Weinstein Co.