And the leading men are...
Josh Brolin in W.
For holding fast, true and solid during this meandering, often unsteady film. He never falters, even within the face of such thankless material and manages to humanize one of the worst US Presidents in recent memory.
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
For understanding this character's quiet introspection, and never overselling it. The one "big" scene (and likely Oscar clip) never feels too big and is richly earned. Totally organic.
David Kross in The Reader
For a finely hewned English language debut from a promising young actor. It must not have been easy, especially next to the powerhouse that is Kate Winslet.
Sean Penn in Milk
His best performance in years. Studied, complex and better than any of the biopic fare we've seen of late. And for giving us hope...you've got to give them hope.
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
He walks a tightrope between maudlin and raw emotion and succeeds at every turn. One of the fiercest, rawest turns of the year.
Runners-Up: Leonardo DiCaprio is more compelling than he's been in years in Revolutionary Road. A certain nominee in a year not so replete with great male performances. Sam Rockwell is much better than his material in Choke. Philip Seymour Hoffman is frighteningly warm in Doubt and greatly misanthropic in Synecdoche, New York.