It's the battle of the American hunk versus the French sweetheart.
With the Oscars right around the corner, one of the big questions is who will win the award for best actor. The category is filled with male beauties, but experts say the race is down to two charmers. Will it be America's favorite bachelor, George Clooney, or France's comedic genius, Jean Dujardin? Both films have been critically acclaimed and both actors have already received honors this awards season for their performances. So who will walk away with Oscar gold this Sunday?
"Each one has things benefiting them that could give them the edge," Paul Dergarabedian, a Box Office analyst for Hollywood.com told ABCNews.com. "That's why it's such a tough race."
Clooney is nominated for his performance in "The Descendants," a family drama about Matt King, a powerful Hawaiian land owner forced to rethink his actions as a father and a husband when his wife is launched into a coma. King must take care of his two daughters while dealing with family issues, including the sale of family land and his wife's cheating before her accident. Clooney's performance is perhaps one of the most believable of all time. He ditches his typical sexy, suave leading man role for a character deep in grief, anger and conflict.
"In this film he's somebody that can't really rely on his charm like George can in life," Peter Travers, movie critic for Rolling Stone told ABCNews.com. "He's wearing boat shoes, shorts, and Hawaiian shirts that nobody looks good in. He is everything we don't expect to find in a George character."
But some experts say that Clooney's performance is too similar to his character in the 2009 film "Up in the Air" in which he played another emotionally unavailable man, often in voiceover. That performance failed to grab the Best Actor win which has people wondering if "The Descendants" will suffer the same fate.
"The role is similar in that way but it is different enough that I don't think that is going to hurt him," said Dergarabedian. "His character was extraordinarily confident in 'Up in the Air' and the character in 'The Descendants' is not at all."
But is Clooney's unique performance enough to win?
"The only thing he has going against him is that he has won before and Jean Dujardin has not," Travers said.
Clooney won best supporting actor in 2006 for his role in "Syriana." This would be the first win for Dujardin and the first Academy Award for a silent film since "Wings" in 1927.
"People who vote on the Academy are all in the industry," Travers said. "They love 'The Artist' because it is a love letter to their history, it is a love letter to their past."
"The Artist" is a black-and-white, almost completely silent homage to the era before "talkies." Dujardin plays George Valentin, an established actor who helps a young woman become a star, but his career tumbles as she hits it big. However, it's not only the riveting story that has generated so much Oscar buzz. Dujardin's performance shows comedic timing that is unmatched by many others. His expressive face and alluring smile is sure to win the hearts of every viewer.
"There's just something about his manner where he's just in the mood to have a good time, and it just comes across," Travers said.
But is America ready to honor an actor in a silent, black-and-white film? Or does "The Artist" provide a freshness that the film industry needs?
"I would have said six months ago probably not, but 'The Artist' is not just about Jean Dujardin but about winning best picture," Travers said. "It is the movie that has all the momentum going in. 'The Artist' and Jean Dujardin have created some kind of love thing. The Academy and that movie just love each other."
And "The Descendants" might not be able to compare to that love thing.
"People like it, but they don't feel this love and passion for it that I think they feel for 'The Artist,'" Travers said.
But these are two exceptional performances so the question still stands, who will win?
"They're both really good," Travers said. "I don't think that anybody that admires really good acting could be really disappointed if George or Jean won."
The ballots of the nearly 6,000 Academy members are in but the world will have to wait until this Sunday's ceremony to find out who is worthy of the 2012 Best Actor statue.
- Jean Dujardin
- Peter Travers