As the Oscar season slowly begins cranking up its machinery, we at HitFix are continuing our broad warm-up survey of the possible contenders in each major category, all gathered in a pretty photo gallery for your reference. We kicked off last week with Best Picture, and this week we move on to what -- at this point, at least -- looks to be the most stacked of the performance categories.

Sad to say, due to the way Hollywood works, it seems there are always more baity male roles out there to choose from, but this year looks particularly competitive, ranging from acclaimed known quantities like John Hawkes in "The Sessions" to presumed behemoths like Daniel Day-Lewis's "Lincoln" -- with alternatives including another veteran actor's interpretation of a US president, a former Oscar host looking to prove himself as a dramatic heavyweight, and no fewer than three French-language standouts. (We've left out "Cloud Atlas" only because we're waiting on category confirmation.) Check out the gallery below as we weigh up their individual pros and cons. You can also keep up with the ups and downs of this race at In Contention's Best Actor Contenders page.