Bridges v Firth
Will last year's Oscar roles be reversed?
One year on from losing out to Jeff Bridges in the Best Actor category, Colin Firth must be experiencing some serious Oscar-season deja vu. The English actor was the Oscar choice of many critics and film fans in 2010 for his acclaimed performance in A Single Man.
But it was Bridges, a five-time nominee, who finally won his first Oscar for the touching but slight Crazy Heart, playing washed-up country singer Bad Blake (alongside a brave singing turn by our own Colin Farrell).
Bridges, who is genuinely loved by both the business and the ticket-buying public, was a very popular Best Actor winner. But there was a hint of the academy finally recognising a lifetime of achievement (and a great guy) rather than one single performance in a pretty formulaic film.
And many fans and critics felt that Colin Firth was, not to put too fine a point on it, robbed.
Fast forward a year to another Oscar season and Firth (50) and Bridges (61) are, once again, matched up against each other in the Best Actor category.
Firth has been making all the running with the wildly popular The King's Speech, picking up best actor gongs at the Golden Globes and from the Screen Actor's Guild.
And Bridges will be back in a tux (it was Gucci last year) as he is nominated once again for True Grit.
If Colin Firth was an even-money bet last year for his role as a gay, foreign, academic, facing unbearable bereavement in buttoned-down early 1960s America, he is the red-hot favourite this time around.
The pre-Oscar buzz has his biggest challenge coming from two left-field challengers, Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network and more seriously, James Franco for 127 Hours.
The fifth nominee is Javier Bardem for the Spanish-language film Biutiful, destined not to be so much of a dark horse as an also-ran.
Bridges, who has once again turned in a commanding performance in the remake of True Grit is not expected to make it two years in a row, but it has been done before. While Spencer Tracy did the double in the 1930s, the only other two-in-a-row Best Actor winner was Tom Hanks, for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994).
The main danger for Colin Firth could be the constant chatter about him being a racing cert for the Best Actor statuette. The 5,700 or so Academy members might resent the press and the public effectively making up their minds for them months before anybody walks down the red carpet.
And either James Franco or Jesse Eisenberg would make left-field, edgy choices when compared to a western (True Grit) and a costume drama (The Kings Speech).
Of course, we won't know until the ceremony takes place on February 27, with Anne Hathaway and nominee James Franco as co-hosts.
But if we accept the Hollywood buzz that the Best Actor category is basically Colin Firth's to lose, with Jeff Bridges an outside chance to pull a Tom Hanks and do two-in-a-row -- it's worth looking at the two actors head-to-head:
Bridges: Jeff Bridges is Hollywood royalty. The son of the late Lloyd Bridges, the actor best known (to younger fans at least) for his comedic roles in spoof movies such as Airplane! and actress and writer Dorothy Bridges. His bother is Beau Bridges (they memorably played feuding siblings in The Fabulous Baker Boys).
Jeff made his screen debut as an infant (in his mother's arms) in the 1951 movie The Company She Keeps and had a regular role alongside mum and dad in the late 1950s TV series Sea Hunt.
As a child, he played catch with Elvis on movie back-lots and stayed up late to watch Hollywood stars enjoy the hospitality of the Bridges home.
Firth: Born in September 1960 in a small town in Hampshire, his mother Shirley Jean was a lecturer in comparative religion at the University of Winchester, while his father David Norman Lewis Firth lectured in history at the same college.
Firth spent a part of his childhood in Nigeria, where his father was teaching and went to the Drama Centre of the University of Arts in London.
And the winner is: Bridges.
Bridges: After a childhood spent working in TV and on the big screen, Bridges got his big break in the acclaimed film The Last Picture Show, directed by Peter Bogdanovich in 1971.
Firth: After winning praise for his role in the play Another Country in London in 1983, Firth went on to star opposite Rupert Everett in the movie version in 1984.
And the winner is: Bridges again. The Last Picture Show was one of the most important and influential films of that decade.
Bridges: For a lot of movie fans, Bridges will always be 'The Dude', the shabby, shambling philosopher king of The Big Lebowski. There are not many actors who can claim to have starred in a movie that can be quoted verbatim by countless fans.
Firth: For his female fans, Colin Firth will forever be emerging from a lake in the 1995 TV mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice. Those waterlogged riding breeches have haunted his career and he tends not to talk about that role these days.
And the winner is: Bridges, again -- The Dude abides.
Bridges: Jeff Bridges has made sci-fi (Tron and Starman), superhero blockbusters (Iron Man), Westerns, musicals and art-house and indie classics.
Firth: Being English, handsome and middle class, Firth has done costume dramas. A lot of costume dramas. From Jane Austen to The Girl With the Pearl Earring. But he has also done broad comedy in the Bridget Jones movies, contemporary comedy/drama in movies such as Fever Pitch and musicals (Mamma Mia!).
And the winner is: Firth, by a nose. Circumstances mean he gets less of a chance to experiment but he has done his best to rise above his Terribly Nice English Act, or image (even if The King's Speech was hardly a walk on the wild side for him).
The Final Vote of the Jury
Colin Firth, unless there is some kind of cosmic upset at the 83rd Oscars on February 27, will win the Best Actor category.