As you read this there is probably a studio Oscar consultant somewhere pulling their hair out, chugging down a handful of Tums or hiding in a corner smoking a relaxing joint.  In a year where the Best Picture race is of the "throw it against a wall and see if it sticks" variety because of the new adventure of a 10 nominee system, publicity reps are also still trying to get a grip on one of the most competitive Best Supporting Actress pools in years (and we're talking everyone outside the cast of "Nine") and what is shaping up for a very difficult Best Actor category.

Sure, George Clooney's acclaimed performance in "Up in the Air" has to be the frontrunner, but he's really the only lock for a nod, at least right now.  It was a different story last year. By Nov. 1st, Sean Penn, Frank Langella and Mickey Rourke were pretty much settled.  The only question was who would join them.  This year?  It's a much more complicated web. 

But before you dive into Award Campaign's concise list of true Best Actor contenders, realize that fan favorites such as Chris Pine ("Star Trek"), Sam Worthington ("Avatar") and Brad Pitt ("Inglourious Basterds") won't make this list.  That's not to say there won't be a popular surprise or two, but we're realists here.  Ten Best Picture nominees or not, it's still your close to retirement age mom and dad's AMPAS.  And that trio's work in those films doesn't merit their attention.

Click here to take a gander at the pros and cons of this year's pool of potential nominees and share your thoughts below.

Look for best actress, the supporting categories, director and additional contenders breakdowns in the weeks to come.  For a rundown on the 2010 Best Picture contenders, click here.

For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory