Which Golden Globes Best Actor Contenders Will Make the Oscar Cut?

Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips

Leonardo DiCaprio may just win a Golden Globe on Sunday night for Best Actor – Musical/Comedy – and it still might not be enough to get him an Oscar nomination. Why? There are 10 candidates in the Globes – five in Drama and five in Musical/Comedy – and this year all 10 are deserving candidates. There's not a single pad-packers, no Johnny Depp in "The Tourist"-like selections to complain about. That makes Best Actor the most competitive category this awards season.

On the Drama side, it's a complete duke out, with Chiwetel Ejiofor edging into the lead, riding the wave of "12 Years a Slave" hype and a strong, tragic performance from a relatively lesser-known actor that anchors the entire movie. But what about Robert Redford in "All is Lost"? He is the entire cast of the movie – or castaway. And this is his swan song to prove that he's not another pretty, if rugged and creased, face. Then there's Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club" delivering a genuine performance rooted in a real man dying of AIDS but not before he does something. We've got it all: the rising star, the elder A-lister and the bongo-boy with the comeback story.

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And there are still two more in the Drama category: Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips," an Oscar frontrunner who may get lift from the movie's overall popularity; and the very worthy Idris Elba, who played the title role in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," a biopic that wasn't as coherent as the South African leader that inspired it.

So, even if Elba falls by the wayside, that's still three or four actors headed toward the five Oscar nominations. And – wait! – we haven't even addressed the five Comedy/Musical contenders yet.

This is an astoundingly strong year for comedies, even if there are no musicals. So the actors in this category are equally worthy. At the top is DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street," but I wouldn't discount Bruce Dern, who pours a lifetime of experience, and a recently acquired restraint, into a monumental yet incredibly human star turn in "Nebraska." It is the defining role of the septuagenarian's long career.

The remaining three Comedy/Musical contenders aren't slouches either: Christian Bale, the comb-over king in "American Hustle;" Joaquin Phoenix showing his softer side in "Her"; and Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis."

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None of these last three is a sure-thing come the Oscar nominations, although Bale, in a comic turn, may ride on the overall success of "American Hustle" in what is essentially an ensemble piece. Phoenix is absolutely brilliant but will likely fall by the wayside in this pack, and Isaac will drop off as the popularity of "Inside Llewyn Davis" wanes in the Guilds – and that's where it matters when it comes to the Academy Awards.

Last year, Daniel Day-Lewis won the Drama category at the Globes. He kept on winning, becoming the standard bearer for "Lincoln" as the movie faded despite 12 Oscar nominations. It would have taken an assassination to keep him off the stage on Oscar night.

But this year, there is not yet a frontrunner because of the very real question: Who will be the final five be that travel the red carpet at the Oscars?

Ultimately, I feel confident predicting four of the Academy Award nominees: Ejiofor, Redford, Dern and McConaughey. But then comes a Sophie's Choice: Will it be Hanks, or Bale, or DiCaprio? This is the tightest race in years among actors who all deserve to win.

The 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey for a second year, will be broadcast live on NBC this Sunday night at 8 PM ET/5PM PT.