By Jeff Labrecque
January 09, 2013 at 06:07 PM EST

“Oscar-nominated actor.”

In Hollywood, there is no greater title for an actor or actress. To be an “Oscar-nominated actor” is a calling card that will forever be used in formal introduction and trailers to sell subsequent movies (many of which will not exactly be Oscar-caliber.) But there’s no denying the prestige that it lends — it’s practically royalty. It can never be taken away as long as a thespian lives, and it will most certainly be included in the first paragraph of their obituary.

Can you argue that an actor is great if he or she has never been nominated for an Oscar? Well, yes, or course. But having “Oscar-nominated’ in front of one’s name certainly makes the case easier. That’s why tomorrow morning’s Oscar announcement has so much at stake for several candidates. We won’t know who wins until Feb. 24 (Pssst, Daniel Day-Lewis), but a mere nod will feel like victory for several established actors who’ve been unlucky over the years. Like Richard Gere, who is a darkhorse to finally be recognized by the Academy for his role in Arbitrage after being routinely overlooked in films like Chicago. And Hugh Jackman, who’s hosted the ceremony before but finally seems poised to be invited to join the elite club.

Last year, Gary Oldman got the call — finally! — for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and even though he ultimately lost to another First-Timer for Best Actor (The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin), the nomination validated a lifetime of excellence. “Oscar-nominated Gary Oldman” sounds and feels right, and it was a long time coming.

This year, there are several excellent — and especially handsome — candidates who seem deserving of the title, but there only a few spots to be had. Who will you be most happy for if their name is announced tomorrow morning?

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