Why beat around the beard? By this point, everyone is forecasting grizzled vet Jeff Bridges to join Christopher Waltz and Mo’Nique in a trifecta of functionally preordained acting wins. That said, Bridges’s path hasn’t been quite as White Russian smooth as the supporting tag team’s reign of terror. Though his sozzled role in Crazy Heart is one big, uncomplicated awards cliché (and an unusually sympathetic one at that—he’s not even a belligerent drunk!), he has lost key critics’ awards to Jeremy Renner’s distilled moonshine and George Clooney’s trial-size bottles. And just this last weekend, BAFTA passed on Bridges’s shot of whiskey in favor of Colin Firth’s Rumple Minze. Muddled though his path has been, Bridges should come out on top if only because the Academy has generally seemed more receptive to making good on pseudo-“last call” tribute nominations when men are the ones picking up the tab, not women. (But don’t try telling that to Peter O’Toole over there, morosely nursing his ninth Old Fashioned in the corner booth.) All tolled, there’s only one barfly among these pub crawlers capable of upsetting Bridges. Depending on how drunk Oscar voters prove to be on The Hurt Locker, Renner’s sobering portrait of a clear-eyed but adrenaline-addicted bomb specialist could conceivably garner enough support from those who see his nod as a once-in-a-lifetime shot. It’s certainly the only performance in this lineup that doesn’t require any libations.
Will Win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Should Win: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker