Oscars: Best actor nominees

A look at the best actor nominees for the 84th Academy Awards on 26 February 2012.

Demian Bichir

Demian Bichir in a scene from A Better Life

Age: 48

Nominated for: A Better Life

The character: Mexican single dad Carlos Galindo, a gardener in Los Angeles, who is struggling to keep his son away from gangs.

Oscar record: None

The critics said: "Mexican star Demian Bichir carries it all with a measured performance of considerable emotion as the dad, clenched by so many years holding his breath, waiting for the knock at the door" - Cath Clarke, The Guardian.

George Clooney

George Clooney in The Descendants

Age: 50

Nominated for: The Descendants

The character: Honolulu-based lawyer Matt King, an indifferent husband and father of two girls, is forced to re-examine his life when his wife has a boating accident.

Oscar record: One win for actor in a supporting role in Syriana (2005), plus four other nominations - most recently for best actor in Up in the Air.

The critics said: "As the morally conflicted and mentally distraught Matt, Clooney gives what could be regarded as the most well-rounded and emotionally raw performance of his distinguished career" - Adam Tobias, Watertown Daily Times.

Jean Dujardin

Jean Dujardin portrays George Valentin in The Artist

Age: 39

Nominated for: The Artist

The character: George Valentin, a superstar of the Hollywood silent film era whose career faces oblivion with the advent of "talkies" in the late 1920s.

Oscar record: None

The critics said: "A mustachioed and preening Jean Dujardin engagingly incarnates George Valentin, a vain, athletic star in the Douglas Fairbanks mode who specialises in swashbuckling romantic adventures" - Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter.

Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Age: 53

Nominated for: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The character: Retired Cold War spy George Smiley

Oscar record: None

The critics said: "Oldman gives a deliciously delicate, shaded performance, flitting in and out of the wings like some darting grey lizard. We have the sense that Smiley has seen too much and done too much, and that a lifetime's experience has bled him of colour" - Xan Brooks, the Guardian.

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Age: 48

Nominated for: Moneyball

The character: A failed baseball star who has moved into management and challenges old-school traditions by attempting to put together a top team on a budget, by using statistical analysis.

Oscar record: Two nominations - for best supporting actor in 12 Monkeys, and best actor in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The critics said: "Audiences have been gazing into Pitt's crinkled grey-blue eyes for years, but now there's something quite special going on behind them" - Robbie Collin, the Telegraph.

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