People consider Best Actress a tight race. That's true, as always, but Best Actor has tightened up since last year. I would've put Wahlberg in The Fighter over Bardem's little-seen Biutiful, but that's me.
This year there are 3 locks: George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, and Brad Pitt. All of the movies they are representing are all predicted to get a BP nomination, compared to one strong contender: Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar. You can ask any critic, and I have yet to see a ★★★★ review. Gary Oldman was one of my top 5 in Nov., but he is having the strongest of collapses. No SAG, no Golden Globes, hardly any critics award noms, and no wins to my knowledge.
The 5th spot place has instead been replaced by Michael Fassbender in Shame. I can't comment on the film or his performance due to my age, but I imagine it's terrific, from the look of the trailers. If DiCaprio were to drop out, which is highly possible, Michael Shannon would take the place. No one I've heard is predicting a win, but critics are sticking him on nomination lists. My predictions below:
1. George Clooney (The Descendants)
2. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
3. Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
4. Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
5. Michael Fassbender (Shame)