Earlier this week I posted about a trio of last-minute Best Actress contenders. Now Fox Searchlight is throwing an exciting wrench into the Best Actor race by deciding to release its country-music drama Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges in what’s said to be a career-best performance, in mid-December for awards consideration. Bridges is a four-time past nominee (his first nomination was 37 years ago for The Last Picture Show) and seems like the kind of guy who’s due for major recognition. And early screenings of the film have indicated that Bridges’ turn as an alcoholic crooner could just do the trick.

So what will this news mean for the Best Actor competition? Up in the Air‘s George Clooney and A Single Man‘s Colin Firth are the closest things we’ve got to locks at this point, while Morgan Freeman’s role as Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus seems quite promising as well. If Bridges is as much of a shoo-in as I’m hearing, then that leaves only one slot for the taking, meaning that most of the other top contenders—Nine‘s Daniel Day-Lewis, The Hurt Locker‘s Jeremy Renner, A Serious Man‘s Michael Stuhlbarg, and The Informant!‘s Matt Damon—could very well end up without an invite to the big show.

My colleague Nicole Sperling has the scoop on Crazy Heart‘s official release date.