By Francisco Salazar ( | First Posted: Dec 15, 2013 11:35 PM EST
Tags oscars

Sony/ Columbia

The Best Actor race continues to be the most competitive race of the year with nine actors vying for a spot in the top five.

Leading the pack is Chiwetel Ejiofor for his performance in "12 Years a Slave." The actor has won seven awards for his portrayal and also has a SAG and Golden Globe nomination. Additionally, "12 Years a Slave" is being heralded as the front-runner to win Best Picture. As a result, he is most likely a lock.

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Matthew McConaughey is also a lock for his work in "Dallas Buyers Club." The actor took the first annual Gotham award for Best Actor and is also nominated for SAG and the Golden Globe awards. The actor transformed himself by losing weight and that is an aspect that the Academy always applauds. Additionally, McConaughey has been thrilling audiences for his resurgent career for the past two years and the Academy may want to award him for that.

Bruce Dern's performance for "Nebraska" has been on every pundit's radar since he surprised at Cannes and won Best Actor. His performance has already garnered him SAG and Globe nominations as well as the Best Actor award at the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics. "Nebraska" also looks to be a lock for Best Picture, giving him an upper hand over other candidates.

Tom Hanks is also a lock for his work in "Captain Phillips." While he has not won a single award, the SAG and Globe nominations are boosters to his campaign. The film is also a Best Picture lock. If Hanks is nominated, it will be the first time the actor is recognized since 2001 when he received a mention for his work in "Cast Away."

Five other actors will duke it out for the fifth slot. The first of these actors is Robert Redford who was always considered a front-runner to win the award for his performance in "All is Lost." However, his absence at the SAG awards immediately left him out of the front-runner position.

Meanwhile, Forest Whitaker who was never considered a lock for the Best Actor award for his role in "Lee Daniel's The Butler," received nominations for the SAG and Globe awards. The actor still has an uphill battle particularly because the critics did not love "The Butler" and it is not considered a strong Best Picture candidate.

Leonardo DiCaprio is another candidate for his work in "The Wolf of Wall Street." His absence at the SAG awards was no surprise as the film was not screened for all the voters and therefore he did not have a fair chance. However, the film is receiving a lot of buzz and many critics say he gives the Best Performance of his career.

Oscar Issac is also looking like a long-shot for "Inside Llewyn Davis." His performance is getting a lot of buzz and the film is a lock for Best Picture. However, the fact that it his breakout role and he is young could hurt his chances.

The last candidate is Christian Bale for "American Hustle." His role has only been recognized by the Golden Globes but since "American Hustle" is getting a lot of buzz and the Academy has an affinity for David O. Russell movies, Bale could surprise.

Third Predictions

1. Chiwetel Ejiofer - "12 Years a Slave"

2. Matthew McConaughey - "Dallas Buyers Club"

3. Tom Hanks - "Captain Phillips"

4. Bruce Dern - "Nebraska"

5. Leonardo Dicaprio - "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Potential Nominees

6. Robert Redford - "All Is Lost

7. Forest Whitaker - "Lee Daniel's The Butler"

8. Christian Bale - "American Hustle"

9. Oscar Issac - "Inside Llewyn Davis"