Past winners of this award have gone on to do nothing and everything. Just look at Benicio De Toro, Cuba Gooding, and Tommy Lee Jones. On the other hand, there’s Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Tim Robbins. Interestingly enough, there hasn’t been a recent winner of Best Supporting Actor that has gone on to win Best Actor. We think Javier Bardem may eventually be the first. He’s way overdue. This year’s race looks to boil down to two actors. One is a former Best Actor winner, the other is one of Hollywood’s most talented actors that is up for his first ever nomination. It could be a race that goes down to the wire. Here are the nominees:

Christian Bale, The Figher
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Hawkes’ nomination was his reward. He beat out The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield for the spot, which we still think was outrageous. Renner is starting to become one of Hollywood’s finest actors. He followed up The Hurt Locker with an even crazier performance in The Town. Renner could end up being the new Mel Gibson with better acting chops. Then there’s Ruffalo, who has steadily built up a resume of impressive films, including Zodiac and Reservation Road. But it’s not quite his time yet. It will be soon.

That means the race is between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush. Thus far, Bale has won the Critics’ Choice Award, the Golden Globe, and the SAG. He’s a shoo-in, right? Not so fast. The Academy’s membership is much larger than any of these groups and much more diverse than SAG. It includes editors, art directors, composers, and cinematographers. Cinematographers might not be so keen on Bale after his little rant while filming Termination Salvation. But that’s not really the point. The point is that Bale is beloved by actors, who appreciate his skill set, but others in the industry may not have such a favorable opinion of him. Plus, he’s going up against Geoffrey Rush, a legendary actor who shines in the year’s biggest Oscar movie The King’s Speech. The recent BAFTA win gives Rush even more momentum and that happened more than a week before Oscar polls close. If The King’s Speech dominates, then Rush could easily land his second Oscar, but we think Bale might just hold him off by a nose. The difference may be that Bale has not won before and Rush has. Voters sometimes like to spread the wealth.