Best supporting actor

It's hard to say who's the most unexpected face in this year's supporting actor category. Is it first-time actor Barkhad Abdi, a Somali-American from Minnesota? Is it Jonah Hill, a raunchy comedian now enjoying his second Oscar nod for a dramatic role? You could also make a case for Bradley Cooper, once considered little more than the pretty face of "The Hangover." Even the likely winner, Jared Leto, an actor who hasn't appeared in a major film since 2005, is something of a surprise.

THE ACTOR Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

THE DEAL Just when his acting career was taking off, Leto hit the road with his rock band, 30 Seconds to Mars. Good move: For his performance as a transgender AIDS victim, Leto is all but guaranteed the Oscar.

 

THE ACTOR Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"

THE DEAL Now on his second nomination, Cooper is establishing himself as a serious actor. Next up, however, is "Guardians of the Galaxy," in which he plays the superhero Rocket Raccoon.

 

THE ACTOR Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"

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THE DEAL The Irish-German actor and director Steve McQueen collaborated on two other acclaimed movies, "Hunger" and "Shame." This is Fassbender's first Oscar nod.

 

THE ACTOR Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

THE DEAL Proving that his role as a dweeby number-cruncher in "Moneyball" was no fluke, Hill plays Donnie Azoff, an amiably abrasive financial criminal, in Martin Scorsese's "Wolf." It's a weird, wonderful, show-stealing performance.

 

THE ACTOR Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"

The former limo driver surely never imagined that his first film gig -- sharing near-equal screen time with Tom Hanks -- would result in an Oscar nomination. Abdi is now trying his hand at directing.

 

 

Best supporting actress

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Geographically, some of the women in this year's supporting actress category had to stretch (one is a Brit playing a Californian) while others stayed a little closer to home (June Squibb, born in Illinois, plays a Nebraskan). In the end, though, the award will likely go to a certain Kentucky girl for playing a Long Islander.

 

THE ACTRESS Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"

THE DEAL Roberts holds her own among a fine cast -- Meryl Streep, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch -- though this dysfunctional-family drama hasn't enjoyed much Oscar buzz.

 

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THE ACTRESS Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"

THE DEAL The Mexican-born daughter of a Kenyan senator, Nyong'o graduated from Yale's drama school and speaks four languages. You wouldn't know it, however, from her performance as Patsy, an illiterate slave trapped on a Southern plantation.

 

THE ACTRESS Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"

THE DEAL The London-born actress plays a San Francisco denizen in Woody Allen's excellent drama. It's a fine performance, though her accent somehow keeps sliding toward Brooklyn.

 

THE ACTRESS June Squibb, "Nebraska"

THE DEAL The oldest actress in this category at 84, Squibb nearly steals the show in Alexander Payne's sardonic Midwestern comedy as a long-suffering and foul-mouthed wife. Her best lines, unfortunately, cannot be printed here.

 

THE ACTRESS Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"

THE DEAL Lawrence is great as a manipulative Long Island housewife, but after winning best actress last year for "Silver Linings Playbook," can she win yet another award for yet another David O. Russell film that also stars Bradley Cooper? That would be a yes.