For the most part, this is the slate I would have chosen -- with the obvious exception of Robert Duvall, a default nomination for a terrible movie. Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler would have made a much more exciting choice.
Mark Ruffalo creates the most fully human character in Foxcatcher, but aside from the terrific interview scene, doesn't have all that many really memorable singular moments. (In fact, I was surprised something OTHER than the interview was chosen for his Oscar clip.) I voted for him last time, for another of his relaxed sad sacks, and I'd probably wait to choose him again for something more outside his usual range.
Ethan Hawke was viewed by many as basically a tag-along to the Boyhood train, but I think he's excellent in the movie, juggling a genuine attempt to try to be a good parent while at the same time making it seem to his kids like he's the "cool" parent. I think he's nearly as good as Arquette, in much the same type of performance, and at least merits consideration for my vote. But this role, too, seems well within his established lackadaisical wheelhouse.
I'm not sure if Edward Norton's Birdman work is quite at the level of his Primal Fear/American History X/Fight Club run, but it's by far the most exciting thing he's done since. Like all of the actors in Birdman, he spins comic gold out of a character who is, deep down, tremendously sad, and in a movie full of riffs on actors personae, his difficult thespian was a great send-up of his own reputation. He's another nominee I'd consider choosing, and I hope this marks a return to form for the once-promising actor who's been widely MIA over the past decade.
I don't think J.K. Simmons towers over the competition to the degree that he should have been essentially a de facto winner from the moment the season began. But I can't deny that his performance makes a striking impression, and contrary to some criticism, I don't find it remotely one-note. He has the obvious change-of-pace scenes designed to make him appear more sympathetic (which he delivers beautifully, by the way), but even within his tyrannical teacher scenes, there's a live-wire mix of madness, control, humor, ego, and generosity, so you never really know how his character is going to behave at any given moment. And given that his competitors are all basically leading men, it's hard for me to root against a longtime character actor who has always been an enjoyable film presence but who finally got the role of his life and knocked it out of the park. He gets my vote.