Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn
PRO: Shakespearean Branagh gleefully chews the scenery as the egomaniacal, power-hungry Sir Laurence Olivier.
CON: Is that acting, really?
Jonah Hill for Moneyball.
PRO: Provides comic relief in a detailed study of "sabermetrics" from Michael Lewis, the nonfiction writer who also had a sports hit two years ago (The Blind Side).
CON: Basis of sabermetrics is how to put out a quality product without spending a ton of money. Hollywood horrified at the prospect.
Nick Nolte for Warrior
PRO: Classic comeback role of born-again, alcoholic ex-fighter trying to reconnect with his son by training him to be a mixed-martial-arts champion.
CON: That mug shot. That mug shot. That mug shot.
Christopher Plummer for Beginners
PRO: Nominated two years ago for The Last Station; voting members may be ready to give this young whippersnapper a chance.
CON: No fun nudity like Brokeback Mountain. Instead, film is like a really-long-delayed Dan Savage promise: "Hey kids, it gets better ... if you live to be 80."
Max Von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
PRO: Plays a character who does not speak, but conveys worlds with his face, his shrugs, and his hands, on which are written just two words, "yes" and "no."
CON: Might work better if he sang, because otherwise the hand thing just reminds us too much of Meat Loaf in Rocky Horror.
Berenice Bejo for The Artist
PRO: "Star is Born"-style rise to greatness. Steals the show without saying a word.
CON: Two words (not uttered aloud, of course): Rinko Kukuchi.
Jessica Chastain for The Help
PRO: Biggest hit of all the movies nominated in this category (though Bridesmaids is close behind). With this and The Tree of Life, she's having a big year.
CON: May split vote with Spencer, nominated for the same picture; in a movie about the black perspective on the '60s and '70s, the Academy makes the courageous choice to nominate ... the white girl?
Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids
PRO: Sitcom star McCarthy shines in the R-rated comedy that proved that women can be as raunchy as men.
CON: It's Mike and Molly, not Oscar and Molly.
Octavia Spencer for The Help
PRO: If Golden Globes acceptance was any indication, would deliver a rousing speech if tapped.
CON: In this year of cross-dressing-themed films (Albert Nobbs, and of course the groundbreaking Jack and Jill) Academy members did not realize Octavia Spencer wasn't Tyler Perry.
Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs
PRO: Incisive, gender-bending performance as a woman playing a man who at one point dresses as a woman.
CON: It's like a remake of Victor, Victoria that nobody saw.
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