BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
You could argue that this year's supporting actor nominees delivered stronger performances than their leading-man counterparts. Each made the most of a lesser role and in some cases nearly stole the movie (that's you, Nick Nolte). In this race, however, age may play the biggest part of all.
THE ACTOR Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
THE DEAL Nolte adds depth to this cage-fighting flick in a searing performance as an alcoholic father trying to reconnect with his sons. He's a dark horse, but a deserving one.
THE DEAL The legendary Swedish actor never says a word in this 9/11 drama, but steals every scene he's in.
THE ACTOR Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"
THE ACTOR Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
THE DEAL The suddenly resurgent Plummer earned his first-ever nod in this same category for 2009's "The Last Station." This new role -- as an elderly father coming out as gay -- looks likely to become the 82-year-old's first win.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The usually serious Oscar voters must have been in good mood when they drew up this list. Every nominee is either in a comedy ("Bridesmaids," "The Artist") or delivers a frequently funny performance in a drama -- and that includes Janet McTeer, brightening up the cross-dressing "Albert Nobbs" with a hilarious moment of peek-a-boo nudity.
THE ACTRESS Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
THE DEAL Is this R-rated comedy the raunchiest ever nominated for an Oscar? If so, McCarthy can take much of the credit for her foul-mouthed, flatulent and somehow still-endearing performance.
THE ACTRESS Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
THE DEAL A great year for this actress, who also starred in "The Debt" and the Oscar-nominated "The Tree of Life." She adds an Oscar nod to her resumé for playing an outcast townie in "The Help."
THE ACTRESS Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
THE ACTRESS Bérénice Bejo, "The Artist"
THE DEAL At the Screen Actors Guild awards, Bejo lost in this category to another nominee who just happens to be on this list. Look for history to repeat.
THE ACTRESS Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
THE DEAL Coming off a Screen Actors Guild award, Spencer seems like an Oscar lock for her role as Minnie, a maltreated maid who exacts a culinary revenge.