Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz cruising to Oscars

Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:07am EST
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By Stephen Farber

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Can anyone beat Jeff Bridges and Christoph Waltz?

That's the question facing Oscar voters as they ponder this year's actor and supporting actor categories, where there are two clear favorites and everybody else.

Bridges and Waltz have dominated their categories this season in what has become a fairly uneventful actor race. In fact, heading into the morning of the Oscar announcements on February 2, four of the five nominees for best actor were considered sure things. Only Jeremy Renner was a bit of a question mark, but as "The Hurt Locker" gained traction, his chances improved.

Renner and the other lead actor nominees will have a hard time beating Bridges when winners are announced on March 7. Early in the season, George Clooney was named best actor by the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics, signaling he might be on track for his second Oscar and his first in the lead actor category (he won supporting in 2006 for "Syriana").

But since then, virtually every other awards body has rallied behind Bridges' unvarnished portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake. Long one of the most admired actors in Hollywood, he has been nominated four previous times but has never won. In the past, many think Bridges was the victim of his own unaffected naturalism; he disappeared so completely into the characters he played that it was hard for some people to believe he was acting.

That might explain why Bridges failed to score a nomination for his superb turn in 1991's "The Fisher King," while co-star Robin Williams earned a nod for his showier turn. But in "Crazy Heart," Bridges is in full Oscar-bait mode in a film that so showcases his performance that distributor Fox Searchlight moved up its release date so he would qualify for awards.

Of the other nominees, Clooney likely has the next best chance of winning, given his Oscar pedigree and the movie-star quality of his performance as a frequent-flying terminator.

Morgan Freeman is a contender for his performance as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus," but the film failed to make the cut for best picture, hurting his chances significantly. A win for Colin Firth ("A Single Man") would be a big upset because he received the picture's only nomination. And since Renner is perceived to have snagged that fifth slot, his chances of winning are limited.   Continued...

<p>Actor Jeff Bridges poses for a portrait after being nominated in the Best Actor category for the 82nd Academy Awards for his role in "Crazy Heart" in Los Angeles February 2, 2010. The Oscars will be presented in Hollywood March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>