Oscars 2011 Profiles: Best Supporting Actor Nominees

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All the early signs are that this one is Christian Bale's little bald gold guy to lose - but there are four other nominees here who may have other ideas. Sure, Bale might be Batman and in this case a drug-addled boxing trainer - but he's up against Geoffrey Rush's inspirational therapist, Mark "The Hulk" Ruffalo's loveable schlub, John Hawkes' fearsome redneck and Jeremy Renner's borderline psychotic Boston bank robber. What we'd really like to do is pit them against each other in some sort of brawl, but instead we've weighed up their chances in this investigatory feature...

Why He Will Win
Bale's the winner presumptive, following his wins at the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes, for what the latter's worth.His take on eccentric drug addict Dickie Eklund is probably the most eye-catching thing he's ever done - and he's consistently shown an Oscar-friendly commitment to his craft.

He's frickin' Batman. He can tackle the meanest supervillains without breaking a sweat. If he can't sew up a mere Oscar, there's something wrong.

Why He Won't Win
There's been some criticism of his performance, with suggestions that it's just a little too much for the film.He's still under 40. While that's slightly less of a barrier to winning a Best Supporting gong, male acting winners tend to be older. Also, while he's cut his hair since the Golden Globes, he'd still need to smarten up a bit for the big show.

He's frickin' Batman. The Academy doesn't generally give Oscars to superheroes, fools that they are.

Why He Will Win
The Academy has shown a remarkable fondness for white trash at the nomination stage this year, so John Hawkes' complex Ozark mountain man could be in with a real shot if that trend continues a little further.This could be the consolation prize for the film if Jennifer Lawrence doesn't get the Best Actress prize - at least the film would go home with something.

He's built up a career working with great directors and in credible indie films, which is a respectable and accepted path for an Oscar winner.

Why He Won't Win
This is the nomination that no-one quite saw coming, and those nominees usually have to make do with the nomination alone, only to go away with a raised profile and return with a bigger and more prominent chance of winning a couple of years later.While Hawkes is excellent, most of the early buzz on the film was for Lawrence - and if he's not even being talked up over his own co-star, what chance does he have of beating the Bale juggernaut?

While he's tough in the film, if it comes to fisticuffs for the win, we're not sure he could take Bale or Renner.

Why He Will Win
He was nominated last year for his magnificent performance in The Hurt Locker; maybe he'll get an overdue dose of recognition this year.His loyal but borderline-unhinged performance in The Town is a masterpiece of walking the line acting, keeping the audience on edge because you're never quite sure what he's going to do next. He drives the film, basically.

He just turned 40! It's OK, Academy, you can give him a prize!

Why He Won't Win
Just as his Hurt Locker performance was a little too macho to win over the judges, so his Town turn may be a little muscular.The Town itself has been almost entirely overlooked; this therefore seems more cursory nod to the film than full-throated acclamation.

That heavy Baaaahstaaan accent may have presented some difficulties for voters. And all those nasty tattoos! So threatening!

Why He Will Win
He's in the most nominated film of the year, which is a help, and he goes toe-to-toe with the Best Actor presumptive, so logically he must be the Best Supporting Actor.He's won Best Actor before, and since has been nominated three times (including this one), so he's probably due another win.

As one of the film's producers, he'll be out and about talking it up, and will therefore get a chance to remind everyone what a total legend he is.

Why He Won't Win
He hasn't so far: while his film has been cleaning up, Rush himself has been largely overlooked this year.The light and almost comical edge to his performance makes it hard to see how much acting is actually going on underneath; the result is much less eyecatching than, say, Bale's noisier turn.

He cheeks the Royal family! The sheer unmitigated gall of it!

Why He Will Win
Who doesn't love Mark Ruffalo? He's one of the most consistent and likeable actors in town. Just give this man an award already! He's over 40 now, it's OK!Unbelievably, this is his first nomination, and it's long overdue. Also, this is the last chance to reward him before he plays a superhero and ruins his chances for the foreseeable.

Oh, and it's a very good understated performance, treading a line between natural charm and childlike destructiveness.

Why He Won't Win
The film's a little cheerier than the other offerings here, which is generally a handicap in Oscar racing.The early buzz for the film was all about the leading ladies rather than Ruffalo, and we can't see him campaigning hard to make up the gap.

He's such a nice guy that he'll completely take it in his stride if he doesn't win. Bale, on the other hand, might accuse everyone in sight of a lack of professionalism.