There are a few possibilities that can play out but it’s hard to tell this early in the season. The only thing we know is that Mark Ruffalo is a definite contender for “Foxcatcher.” J.K. Simmons looks ferocious in the trailer for “Whiplash” and Edward Norton, though brief, looked funny in the trailer for “Birdman.” Placing some bets on Logan Lerman as a standout for “Fury” and a possibility that Christoph Waltz goes supporting for “Big Eyes.” The rest is up to chance.
AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE
1. Mark Ruffalo
FOR HIM: Previous nominee for "The Kids are All Right." Has another praised performance in "Begin Again." Was said to be a true standout in Cannes.
AGAINST HIM: There's still a chance that Steve Carell joins him in a Supporting bid which may steal a lot of votes.
2. Edward Norton
FOR HIM: Two nominations under his belt and he hasn't been in the hunt in over fifteen years. If co-star Michael Keaton is as great as we think he may be, he could pull someone like Norton in for the ride.
AGAINST HIM: How big is his part?
3. J.K. Simmons
FOR HIM: A veteran who is said to deliver one of his best turns yet. In a category that loves to reward vets, he may be a near shoo-in..
AGAINST HIM: There's still no telling if the Sundance buzz will translate to all of the U.S.. This could be a smaller film which leaves him out.
4. Logan Lerman
FOR HIM: Trailer showed that he could be a standout. After being completely ignored for "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," this could be an entry way for him. Maybe this generation's Timothy Hutton?
AGAINST HIM: It's hard to standout in war films with this many male players. Look at people like Nick Nolte, Tom Sizemore, etc.
5. Christoph Waltz
FOR HIM: Two-time Academy Award winner in a villainous type role. This could be another great turn for him.
AGAINST HIM: Could go lead.
THE NEXT FIVE CONTENDERS
6. Matthias Schoenaerts
FOR HIM: After impressing many with his strong turns in "Bullhead" and "Rust & Bone," Schoenaerts may be on the brink of serious success here in the states. Co-starring opposite Williams could be his ticket.
AGAINST HIM: Could go the lead route. It all depends on how critics receive the film.
7. Robert Duvall
FOR HIM: A veteran who has proven that he still has it after all these years as we have seen in "The Road." Has what seems like a very complex, and complicated role.
AGAINST HIM: How much do the much publicized rewrites actually mean?.
8. Tom Wilkinson
FOR HIM: Playing LBJ. Could be one of those things that Oscar falls in love with.
AGAINST HIM: Did Liev Schreiber taint the LBJ image for a while? How big is the role?
9. John Lithgow
Love is Strange
FOR HIM: This is something that veteran wins are made of. Sensitive and compelling. This Tribeca standout could be a ticket for Lithgow.
AGAINST HIM: It's co-lead-ish. May not buy it here.
10. Josh Brolin
FOR HIM: Was semi-good in "Labor Day" and is looking for his second nomination following "Milk." If this Anderson film is a big player, someone could get swept in.
AGAINST HIM: Internal competition.
OTHER TOP-TIER CONTENDERS
11. Johnny Depp
Into the Woods
The Wolf was nominated for a Tony. Could translate for him.
12. James Franco
Playing a murderer which could offer him some new and exciting things.
13. Albert Brooks
A Most Violent Year
Because that "Drive" snub still stings for some.
14. Michael Shannon
"Revolutionary Road" and "Take Shelter" were just the tip of the iceberg. This could be something substantial. Playing at TIFF.
15. Robert Pattinson
Map to the Stars
Is beginning to show his range. He also has "Queen of the Desert." His "Twilight" days may be long behind him.
16. Philip Seymour Hoffman
A Most Wanted Man
His "goodbye" could get lots of sympathy votes.
17. James Gandolfini
Another posthumous possibility.
18. Steve Buscemi
Thomas McCarthy often gets very special things from his actors. His miss for "Ghost World" still remains inexcusable.
19. Joel Edgerton
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Surprisingly did not look terrible in the trailer. That's all we can say for now.
20. Michael Fassbender
Finally got noticed for "12 Years a Slave" and this is another possibility alongside "MacBeth."
Clayton Davis started to write professionally in his sophomore year of college when Johnny Alba, the editor and owner of the old Oscar prediction site, The Oscar Igloo, had an opening for staff writers. Clayton wrote for The Igloo for nearly four years before being appointed editor and revamping and renaming The Oscar Igloo into the now popular mega-site, The Awards Circuit. Since then, Clayton has become a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to awards season show, The Critics Choice Awards. Most recently, Clayton is a now an active member of the International Press Academy, which hosts the popular Satellite Awards as well as the newly integrated Broadcast Television Journalists Association, which hosts the Critics Choice Television Awards. In June 2014 he became the year's first accepted member to New York Film Critics Online. He has been quoted in various outlets (CNN.com, Bloomberg.com, TheWrap.com, AceShowbiz.com, SlashFilm.com, ScottFeinberg.com) and continues to raise the bar for film-talking enthusiasts around the globe.