October 15th Update - It's tempting to call Redford, Ejiofor and McConaughey locks but look at the strength of those sitting just below the top five. And that's without Bale or DiCaprio in the race. With a race this packed there will surely be at least one brutal snub. Possibly more than one.
Still Waiting: Christian Bale - American Hustle, Leonardo DiCarprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
Is Anyone Safe This Year?
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Robert Redford - All is Lost
Redford's nearly silent performance is the whole movie in this modern riff on The Old Man and The Sea. It's an epic, performance, worthy of an icon like Redford. The gimmick of the performance will garner lots of attention but the question is whether or not the lack of dialogue will hold him back, living legend or not.
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
The reviews are pretty much unanimous: Hanks is in the running for his first nomination since Cast Away thirteen years ago. Still, with competition this rough even the name Hanks doesn't guarantee inclusion. My hunch is that his devastating final scene pushes him past the finish line. Full Review
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Payne's last three films have garnered six Oscar nods for acting, and that's with Giamatti getting screwed for Sideways. A respected veteran like Dern with a showcase role in a well-reviewed film from Payne (is there another kind?) is right in the Academy sweet spot. Unless this one is just too dreary, that is. Full Review
Michael B Jordan - Fruitvale Station
A powerful breakout performance in one of the year's breakout films. Sure to be in the mix. Full Review
Forest Whitaker - The Butler
Joaquin Phoenix - Her
Ethan Hawke - Before Midnight
Playing a normal dude in a talky romance is most definitely not to Oscar's taste in this category no matter how deeply felt the performance. Full Review
Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
Miles Teller - The Spectacular Now
Michael B. Jordan is likely going to suck up all the breakthrough performance oxygen during the year end awards hoopla, but Teller deserves to steal a few away from him. He bowled me over with his exuberant work in this unexpectedly thoughtful teen romance. Full Review