Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
*Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
This Oscar was pretty much decided back in May, when Waltz won the Cannes Film Festival's citation as Best Actor. (It is a lead performance, really.) The Austrian stage veteran has been giving eloquent variations on his thank-you speech ever since; here's hoping he saved his best for the big night. Waltz brought a sense of humor and a preening self-regard to the role of Hans Landa, Tarantino's courtly, conniving German officer. By the end of the movie Landa may need a scalp transplant, but Waltz is forehead and shoulders above the competition.