One of the most difficult Academy Award races to predict this year is Best Supporting Actor. Not only are all five nominees already Oscar champs (that has never happened before in an acting category), but they have been trading off victories at the precursor prizes.
None of the men chosen by the four major critics' groups made the cut with the Oscars. Both the Gotham critics and National Society feted Matthew McConaughey ("Magic Mike" and "Bernie"), the LA scribes went with Dwight Henry ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") and the National Board of Review winner was Leonardo DiCaprio ("Django Unchained").
Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln")
Jones gets odds of 12/5 and is the choice of nine of our 26 experts, two of nine editors, and 42% of users. Key to this frontrunner status is his win at the SAG Awards; 11 of the 18 SAG champs have repeated at the Oscars, including the last five in a row.
He also contended at the Critics' Choice, Golden Globes and BAFTA for playing Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican congressman who wants to abolish slavery.
Jones won this category in 1993 for "The Fugitive" and this is his fourth overall nomination.
Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook")
De Niro is tied with Tommy Lee Jones with 12/5 odds even though he did not win a single major award this season. He is predicted to prevail by 12 experts, four editors, and 29% of Users.
He was nominated at both the Critics' Choice and SAG swards for playing the understanding father of a bipolar man. However, he was snubbed by the Golden Globes and BAFTA.
De Niro is a two-time Oscar champ with wins in both Best Supporting Actor ("The Godfather Part II," 1974) and Best Actor ("Raging Bull," 1980). This marks his seventh career nomination, and the first since "Cape Fear" in 1991.
Christoph Waltz ( "Django Unchained")
Waltz is in third place with odds of 10/3 and the support of five experts, three editors, and 23% of Users. He just won this category at BAFTA. Since the British shifted these kudos in 2000 to take place during Oscar voting, seven of the 12 winners have gone on to claim the Oscar. He also won at the Golden Globes, where 10 of the past 12 champs have repeated at the Oscars.
However, Waltz did not contend for either the SAG and Critics' Choice awards for playing Dr. King Schultz, a German inmigrant dentist turned bounty hunter. Since the Critics Choice Awards began in 2001, every Oscar winner for Supporting Actor has contended at both those kudos and SAG.
Waltz won his only previous Oscar bid -- "Inglourious Basterds," 2009 -- which came in this category.
Philip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master")
Hoffman is ranked in fourth place at 15/2 with 5% of user votes but no first place votes from either our experts or editors. He prevailed at the Critics' Choice and seven of the dozen winners of that award have gone on to Oscar victories.
He was nominated by the Golden Globes, SAG and BAFTA for playing Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a new philosophical movement. Of the five performances, his is the only one not in a Best Picture contender.
Hoffman won Best Actor ("Capote," 2005); this marks his fourth overall nomination.
He reaped bids from BAFTA, Golden Globes, SAG, and Critics' Choice for playing Lester Siegel, a Hollywood producer who sets up a fictional movie to help the CIA. However, he lost all those races.
Arkin won this category in 2006 for "Little Miss Sunshine" and he has a total of four career nominations.