There has been a lot of Oscar talk already this year, but things are really hotting up with great movies and performances that you need to watch out for.

This time of year is always exciting when the festival circuit starts showing some of these potential Oscar contender performances - and there are a handful that many are already raving about.

We take a look at some of the actors who could be in the mix for the Best Actor Oscar when the nominations are announced at the beginning of next year. It looks like it is going to be a close and tense fight.

- Steve Carell - Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher is a movie that made some major waves at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, and it was the central performance from Steve Carell that particularly whipped up a storm.

Carell is set to take on the role of John du Pont, as the movie explores the true story of his relationship with wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, and the tragic consequences.

Carell is not the actor that we would immediate associate with a serious dramatic lead role - he is best known for his comedic performances - but he has had the critics falling over themselves to heap praise on his performance so far this year.

The moment that Foxcatcher was premiered at Cannes, Carell has been tipped for an Oscar nomination, and I would be very surprised if he was not in the mix at the beginning of next year.

- Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch has had a terrific 2014 with success on both the big and small screen, and his year could be set to end with a bang as he returns in The Imitation Game.

The Imitation Game is a movie that has been met with acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the BFI Film Festival, but it is the central performance of Cumberbatch that is really grabbing all of the headlines.

Cumberbatch takes on the role of Alan Turing in the film, the mathematician who was the driving force behind cracking the Enigma Code during the Second World War.

This is the biggest film role of Cumberbatch's movie career to date, and it is set to send his star rocketing even further - it looks set to truly establish him as a bona-fide leading man.

We all know how much the Academy loves a biopic performance - and there are plenty to choose from this year - and it would be a first Oscar nomination for Cumberbatch.

- Timothy Spall - Mr Turner

Timothy Spall has already picked up a Best Actor gong for his central performance in Mr Turner, and more gongs and nominations could be coming his way this awards season.

Spall takes on the role of painter J.M.W. Turner in the Mike Leigh directed film, which explores the last twenty-five years of his life and looks at the impact the death of his father had on him.

Much like Foxcatcher, Mr Turner was another movie that was met with acclaim when it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival - Spall went on to win the Best Actor award for his work.

Spall has already enjoyed an acting career that has spanned over thirty years, but Mr Turner is looking to be a really defining moment in that career.

Spall is one of a handful of British actor who could well find themselves in the Oscar and awards mix, which is always great news.

- Michael Keaton - Birdman

Birdman looks like an early favourite to perhaps bag the Best Picture Oscar, as it has had all the critics raving in recent weeks.

Birdman sees Alejandro González Iñárritu return to the director's chair, while Michael Keaton takes on the central role of a washed up actor who is looking to reclaim his former glory.

Birdman has been met with acclaim since it premiered earlier this year, with Keaton and Edward Norton's performances gaining some real support. Norton could find himself in the mix in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Much like Spall, Keaton has also enjoyed a career that has spanned over thirty years, and Birdman looks set to be another iconic performance to add to the likes of Batman and Beetlejuice that he already has under his belt.

- Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

We have already looking a series of biopic performances, but Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking could be another that is in the Best Actor Oscar mix.

Directed by James Marsh, The Theory of Everything explores the relationship between Hawking and his wife Jane as he battles the illness that put him in a wheelchair.

Redmayne has already enjoyed success in recent years, but the role of Stephen Hawking - much like Cumberbatch with The Imitation Game - is the most important and is set to propel him even further.

The Theory of Everything received its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, where the central performances from Redmayne and Felicity Jones - who plays Jane - were heavily praised.

Should it indeed be Carell, Cumberbatch, Spall, Keaton, and Redmayne that bag the Best Actor nominations, this will be a category full of first time nominees.

Other that could well find themselves in the mix in Jack O'Connell (Unbroken), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Miles Teller (Whiplash).

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