With all due respect to ‘The Fifth Estate,’ the only real Oscar contender to open in theaters last weekend (in limited release) was Steve McQueen’s uncompromising, emotional '12 Years a Slave.’ Now that audiences are starting to gain access to this visceral commentary on American slavery, you can begin to understand why it is carving out a place on the top of several of our charts.

Over the past few weeks, though, more contenders have reached theaters, from ‘Captain Phillips’ to ‘Gravity’ and ‘All Is Lost.’ Have the charts changed? Are the shifts drastic? Let’s catch up on the latest frontrunners in our major Oscar categories.

  • 1

    Jared Leto, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

    Last Week: 1

    ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is Matthew McConaughey’s show, through and through. He shines incredibly bright as a Texas redneck who contracts the HIV virus. But McConaughey has outstanding chemistry with co-star Jared Leo, who creates an actual character out of what normally devolves into caricature. Rayon (Leto) is an unfiltered voice, a portal into the gay community for McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof. It is a risky performance, but never a showy performance. The scene Leto gets with James DuMont, playing Rayon’s father, should cement his nomination this year.

    Focus Features
  • 2

    Michael Fassbender, ‘12 Years a Slave’

    Last Week: 3

    Fassbender reunites with ‘Shame’ director Steve McQueen, and while ‘Slave’ is a vehicle for the always excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fassbender emerged from the Telluride and Toronto film festivals as a legitimate Best Supporting Actor contender. There were many who believed Fassbender deserved an Oscar nom for his searing portrayal of a sex addict in ‘Shame.’ News that he won’t actively campaign for an Oscar shouldn’t hurt his chances at a nomination but might ultimately cost him a win.

    Fox Searchlight
  • 3

    Barkhad Abdi, ‘Captain Phillips’

    Last Week: --

    Tom Hanks lends ‘Captain Phillips’ star power. But many who left Paul Greengrass’ maritime thriller raved about the talents of the man who put Hanks under the gun, literally and figuratively. The Somali native brings actual sentiment to a complicated role, playing a pirate ordered to infiltrate a Maersk cargo ship and leave with valuables – even if it means taking the ship’s captain hostage. As ‘Captain Phillips’ continues to perform at the box office, the buzz on Abdi (making his feature-film debut) grows louder. What a story he would make all Oscar season long.

  • 4

    Tom Hanks, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

    Last Week: 2

    Iconic actor Tom Hanks playing iconic Hollywood entertainer Walt Disney in a behind-the-scenes expose on one of the industry’s most-beloved films? Why don’t you go ahead and take all of the Oscars, ‘Mr. Banks.’ John Lee Hancock’s movie-magic drama finally screened for a wider audience as it prepared to close the London Film Festival (and, later, play AFI Fest in Los Angeles). It has been labeled a crowd-pleaser, and an awards contender, but it might be more of Emma Thompson’s show. Still, I’m slotting Hanks in, because he’s Hanks (and the category is thin).

    Walt Disney
  • 5

    Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’

    Last Week: 4

    Ron Howard’s Formula-1 drama ‘Rush’ finally went wide, giving a larger audience its first look at Bruhl’s calculating turn as obsessed racer Niki Lauda. He’s the real deal, a cold counterbalance to Chris Hemsworth’s impulsive James Hunt, Lauda’s natural rival. I’d feel much better about this pick if Howard’s ‘Rush’ performed better (it has earned an estimated $22M), but Universal can push Bruhl all season if the film performs well overseas, as expected.