Will a former winner dominate the field or will the Academy crown a new champion?
Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
Pro: There's a lot of affection for "The Town" across the industry for proving a well made dramatic thriller without "big" stars can still succeed in the marketplace (no, Ben Affleck is hardly a big star anymore). Renner's impressive performance may be one of the easiest categories they can reward Affleck's flick. Renner already is in the Academy's good graces for his best actor nominated work last year in "The Hurt Locker."
Con: Renner's commitment to Brad Bird's new "Mission: Impossible" picture (sorry, we're not using that ludicrous title in an awards story) will keep him off the awards circuit he knows all too well. Is that a good or a bad thing? We're not sure ourselves. At this point, Renner is on the cusp, but a SAG and Golden Globe nod might seal it.