By Francisco Salazar ( | First Posted: Feb 22, 2013 09:41 AM EST

Still from The Master (Photo : TWC Publicity)

The Best Supporting Actor Race is one of the most difficult races to predict this year as three actors have emerged as possible winners. The race is being disputed by five Oscar winners and four actors will go for their second while the fifth actor will go for his third. The last time an actor race was so difficult to predict was in 2007 when four Supporting Actresses split the top awards. Past Supporting Actor winners are Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Christian Bale (The Fighter), Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), and Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men).

 Alan Arkin-Arkin's nomination for "Argo" was his fourth Oscar nomination. The "Argo" actor was previously nominated for "The Russian are coming, The Russian are Coming," "The Heat is a Lonely Hunter" and won in 2006 for "Little Miss Sunshine." Arkin has been nominated for all the top awards including the British Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, and Screen Actors Guild. He has not won a single precursor award and pundits have criticized his nomination for not being a huge part of the film. He likely does not stand a chance at garnering his second Oscar.

Robert De Niro- The veteran actor received his seventh nomination for "Silver Linings Playbook." He previously won for "The Godfather Part 2," and "Raging Bull" and was last nominated in 1991 for "Cape Fear." De Niro has had a shaky ride to the Oscars as he only won two precursors including the Detroit Film Critics. While he was nominated for SAG and Critics Choice awards, he failed to be shortlisted at the Golden Globes and BAFTA. If the Oscars decide to surprise and award him, it will be most likely based on their love for the film and the nostalgia factor. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman-Hoffman received his fourth Academy Award nomination for "The Master;" he was previously nominated for 2007's "Charlie Wilson's War," 2008's "Doubt," and won in 2005 for "Capote." Hoffman has been hailed as the Best Supporting Actor by 16 awards organizations including the Critics Choice Awards. However he failed to pick up the BAFTA, the Golden Globe and SAG award which debilitated his campaign. Additionally, he is the only actor in the category whose film was not nominated for Best Picture and he has not shown up to any awards ceremony. Hoffman won the most precursor awards and pundits have called his performance the most deserving and most complete in the category. 

Tommy Lee Jones-Jones received his fourth Oscar nomination for "Lincoln;" he was previously nominated for "JFK," "In the Valley of Elah," and won in 1993 for "The Fugitive." Jones has won 12 awards including the SAG for his performance as Thaddeus Stevens. However his failure to take home the Globe, the Critics Choice and BAFTA showed his weakness in the category. Additionally, Jones' serious demeanor at the Globes and Critics' Choice and his failure to attend the SAG spurred criticism as pundits stated he was unlikeable. The Academy sometimes picks its winners based on the acceptances speeches and likeability and this alone could affect Jones' opportunity. However if the Academy decides to award "Lincoln," then he could take home his second Oscar.

Christoph Waltz-The "Django Unchained" star received his second Academy Award nomination; he previously won for his role in Quentin Tarantino's film "Inglorious Basterds." Waltz's trail to the Oscars was a rough one because he was only recognized by five Critics Organizations. Additionally, he was competing against his co-stars Leonardo Dicaprio and Samuel L. Jackson for the spot. Waltz earned the nod and then earned his second Golden Globe and BAFTA. Waltz is now the front-runner to win the Oscar after these two victories. However he was not nominated for the SAG and that could hurt his campaign. He also won three years ago for a role that was similar to "Django's" and many pundits believe his performance was really a lead and not a Supporting performance. These two factors may end up dissuading members from vote for him and he may ultimately lose.

Predictions: The race comes down to three actors. Christoph Waltz is the front-runner but Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tommy Lee Jones can easily win. I think Hoffman takes the award. 

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