Oscars 2011 Profiles: Best Actor Nominees

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Traditionally one of the most competitive categories at the Oscars, Best Actor this year sees a huge range displayed by the 5 nominees. There's James Franco, carrying a film from a single location in 127 Hours; Javier Bardem, spiralling downwards in Biutiful; Colin Firth, struggling to get his words out in The King's Speech; Jesse Eisenberg, as the thinking man's nerd in The Social Network; and Jeff Bridges, gunning for the double after last year's win, in True Grit. Who'll emerge triumphant? Read our guide to figure it out...

Why He Will Win
His performance in Biutiful is the bright spark in a bleak film.It's incredibly Oscar-worthy: he's downtrodden, he's suffering a serious illness and then his life gets really difficult. Only the fact that he's Javier Bardem makes watching it bearable.

The Academy does sometimes award foreign-language performances - see Roberto Begnini for Life Is Beautiful.

Why He Won't Win
The Academy doesn't often award foreign-language performances - especially since the Begnini award is seen as something of an embarrassment.Bardem didn't get a Screen Actors Guild nod to go with this nod, and the film itself was largely overlooked.

No Country For Old Men bagged him a Best Supporting Actor gong about a minute and a half ago; and he just had a baby with Penelope Cruz. Does Bardem really need the validation?

Why He Will Win
Can the Academy resist the temptation to give the award to Bridges? That would be twice in a row for him, and twice for the same role (John Wayne also bagged the prize for the same role in 1969).He's extraordinarily good in a role that's heroic and ridiculous and everything in between. What's more, it's a completely convincing performance that's entirely faithful to the book but also entirely different from Wayne's take.

He's the Dude! Why wouldn't you want to give an award to the Dude?

Why He Won't Win
It would be two years in a row, and two years in a row past two strong consecutive Colin Firth performances (in last year's A Single Man and this year's The King's Speech) would add insult to injury. That seems a little unfair.The film doesn't have the same momentum behind it that The King's Speech does.

He's the Dude! What more does he need?

Why He Will Win
Eisenberg creates an entirely believeable character in the film's version of Mark Zuckerberg, mixing arrogance and insecurity, genius and cluelessness in equal measure.He endured more than 90 takes to get that first scene in the bag; the man deserves an Oscar!

It's about time that the curly-haired got some Hollywood love.

Why He Won't Win
He's under 40. With the exception of Adrien Brody, Oscars in recent years almost always to go to older actors.He hasn't got the body of work behind him that most winners tend to have. Films like Zombieland (while ace) don't show the seriousness of purpose that Oscar tends to like. Also, the fact that his fellow castmembers weren't nominated is probably a bad omen.

He reportedly doesn't even own a TV and wasn't aware the nominations had been announced. That doesn't sound like the sort of person who'll be campaigning for the prize.

Why He Will Win
It's an Oscar-friendly role, combining disability and royalty (both winners), in an Oscar friendly film (period drama touching on historical events). He's also got a SAG win behind him to prove how popular he is with his fellow thesps.Oscar overlooked his astonishingly good performance in last year's A Single Man; surely they can't snub him two years in a row?

The female voters are probably in love with him, and have been ever since he played Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. You can't buy that kind of devotion.

Why He Won't Win
The US fought a War of Independence to free itself of the British monarchy; are the Oscar voters really willing to undo all that history?His singing from Mamma Mia! may still be reverberating in Hollywood's collective brain.

He may have lost votes when it became clear that there was no nudity, no breeches and not a single wet shirt in the entire film.

Why He Will Win
As trapped climber Aron Ralston, Franco had the tricky task of carrying this entire feature single-handed - if you'll forgive the pun. He does so with a brilliant combination of humour and acting smarts; you won't believe this is the guy from Pineapple Express.It's clear that this guy is a serious actor (and author, and photographer, and artist, and student), and Hollywood appreciates that.

He's hosting the event! He can just read his own name out, whatever the envelope says!

Why He Won't Win
He's too young, and too known for the wrong thing (comedies, superhero movies) to sway the voters.It's possible that some of the voters were a bit squeamish and missed some of the best bits of his performance.

There's probably some sort of security in place to make sure he doesn't just read his own name out, whatever the envelope says.

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