Steve Carrell, "Foxcatcher"
Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
Finally, an award with intrigue. Cooper, Keaton and Redmayne all have a legit shot here. Carrell actually got shafted by being nominated here instead of for best supporting actor, where he would have been the favorite.
Keaton was the clear favorite not too long ago. His film has the most Oscar nominations and he won a Golden Globe. However, Redmayne won the SAG Best Actor award and now has probably pulled ahead of Keaton although its remains super close.
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Which brings us to Cooper. Cooper is a wild card because he wasn't competing in any of the previous award shows because the film was released late in the cycle. This is his third consecutive nomination for Best Actor and "American Sniper" is his best work.
My favorite movie of Cooper's, though, is "Limitless." He plays a writer that takes a drug called NZT which enables him to master the stock market. I have been searching for years for NZT and still can't find it.
In such a close race, the winner tends to be a sympathetic character. Let's look at past winners: Matthew McConaughey won for playing an AIDS activist in "Dallas Buyers Club." Tom Hanks won for playing a man who dies of AIDS in "Philadelphia," then followed it up by playing a mentally-challenged hero in "Forrest Gump."
Sean Penn won for "Mystic River" in a role where his acting was mediocre. However, he won the Oscar because a lot of people in Hollywood liked him for buddying up with Communist tyrant Hugo Chavez, visiting Iraq and calling for the incarceration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
The sympathy factor is actually the reason, I believe, that Leonardo DiCaprio never wins. The Academy isn't going to reward him for playing a rich Wall Street guy!
As much as I would like to see Cooper win, I think the most sympathetic character is Eddie Redmayne, who plays Stephen Hawking. The odds are even money on Redmayne. However, if you want a long-shot bet with a chance, take Cooper at 12 to 1.
Winner: Eddie Redmayne