Demian Bichir for A Better Life
PRO: In an election year, lead role in a story about illegal immigration seems especially relevant.
CON: In a year dominated by The Artist, tough to be in a movie whose issues aren't more black and white.
George Clooney for The Descendants
PRO: Golden Globe winner: dapper Hollywood favorite takes risks with inelegant regular-guy role (like running in flip-flops).
CON: Ocean's 16: The Coma.
Jean Dujardin for The Artist
PRO: Golden Globe winner shows emotion not communicated by a hand-waving foreign actor since 1999 winner Roberto Benigni.
CON: Shameless mugging like we haven't seen since ... Roberto Benigni.
Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
PRO: Versatile actor (has played everyone from Dracula to Sirius Black to Commissioner Gordon) almost makes us forget Alec Guinness' acclaimed turn as George Smiley in beloved British spy thriller.
CON: Bored. James Bored.
Brad Pitt for Moneyball
PRO: Third nomination for Pitt, an underrated actor who has been nominated twice before (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Twelve Monkeys) but has never won.
CON: Strike Three (plus, too many Academy voters remember losing a couple of hours to The Mexican).
Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs
PRO: Albert Nobbs is the passion project of Close, beloved six-time nominee who has never won, but spent thirty years honing the lead cross-dressing role.
CON: She's a slowpoke. In the time she spent "perfecting" this one role, Tyler Perry made something like thirty "Madea" movies.
Viola Davis for The Help
PRO: Nominated for just eight minutes in Doubt, so it's likely that this film-length performance -- in only movie where a Best Actress is also nominated for Best Picture -- will be dubbed Oscar-worthy.
CON: Casting a black domestic loops back to unfortunate days of Hattie McDaniel's Miz Scarlett routine. Hollywood, wanting to show it has grown beyond that, may simply snub instead.
Rooney Mara for The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
PRO: Relative unknown takes on the complex and disturbing title role in stylish movie based on the best-selling novel, holding back nothing in a part that involves a graphic rape scene, nudity, and assorted beatings and torture.
CON: Oscar voters confused by deliberate choice to make forced sexual intercourse seem somehow unpleasant.
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
PRO: Mistress of accents knocks it out of the park as British Prime Minister.
CON: Because there are no British actresses who can do that?
Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn
PRO: After being nominated for Brokeback and Blue Valentine, continues streak with her portrayal of one of cinema's greatest stars.
CON: Academy voters remember snubbing the real Marilyn for the Oscars.
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