The Oscar contenders are dropping like flies!

OK, so things aren’t quite so dire. But with movies like ‘Foxcatcher,’ ‘Grace of Monaco’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ pushed back to 2014 (or currently in curious limbo), the ongoing Oscar race shifts gears on a daily basis. Where do we stand at the moment? Let’s run through our picks for the current frontrunners in the Best Actor category. Agree? Disagree? Weigh in below:

  • 1

    Matthew McConaughey, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

    Last Week: 2

    Another rock-solid contender for a Best Actor nom. Yes, yes, you’ve heard this story before: a handsome A-lister drastically changes his or her appearance, catching Oscar’s eye and earning a trophy for the mantle piece.  But McConaughey pulls no punches in portraying Ron Woodroof, a hard-drinking, blue-collar Texan diagnosed with HIV in the mid-1980s. The affable McConaughey has been knocking at the Academy’s door for years now, shedding his Golden Boy image and getting dirty for roles in movies like ‘Magic Mike,’ ‘Mud,’ ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Bernie.’ This is the year Oscar opens the door and let’s McConaughey in.

  • 2

    Chiwetel Ejiofer, ’12 Years a Slave’

    Last Week: 1

    The outstanding Ejiofor has been turning in fascinating performances ever since Stephen Frears’ 2002 thriller ‘Dirty Pretty Things.’ Now his turn as a free man mistakenly enslaved in pre-Civil War times is earning well-deserved raves. McQueen’s visceral recreation of the American South during the slave era is a brutal sit, but Ejifor is compassionate, resilient, steadfast and true in his portrayal of a man stripped of his existence. He seems like a lock for a Best Actor nomination.

  • 3

    Tom Hanks, ‘Captain Phillips’

    Last Week: 4

    Paul Greengrass’ true-life account of the heroic Captain Phillips (Hanks) and his fight to survive against Somali pirates opened this year’s New York Film Fest, and turned up the heat on the film’s Oscar campaign. Both Hanks and the movie, in general, received over-the-top raves … with several awards pundits saying Hanks’ devastating work in the film’s final minutes will be more than enough to earn him yet another Oscar nomination.

  • 4

    Robert Redford, ‘All Is Lost’

    Last Week: 3

    ‘All Is Lost’ sounds like Robert Redford’s ‘Cast Away.’ The veteran actor plays an unnamed sailor embarking on a voyage in the Indian Ocean whose ship is damaged. Instead of turning back, the man sails straight on into a pending storm, staring down his own mortality. The movie boils down to Redford versus Mother Nature, with very little for us to look at beyond the Oscar winner’s endless expressions. If it works, Redford likely will sail into the Best Actor race for only the second time in his career … and the first since 1973’s ‘The Sting.’

  • 5

    Forest Whitaker, ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’

    Last Week: 5

    Does Forest Whitaker give an awards-worthy performance as the title character in ‘The Butler’? Yes. Has the movie earned the required box office to stay in the Oscar discussion? Yes. (It crossed the $100-million mark this past weekend.) So why does Whitaker feel like the most vulnerable of my five picks at the moment? Because his movie came out so early, taking advantage of what’s currently known as the end-of-summer ‘The Help’ slot. The Weinstein Company will have to work very hard to keep Whitaker in the discussion for the next few months, as several other performances clamor for Oscar’s attention. The good news is that few are better at campaigning than the Weinsteins. But there’s a lot of race left to run, and we’ll see if Whitaker’s still there when the dust settles.