George Clooney vs. Ryan Gosling ... it really is a matter of personal preference, isn't it? And maybe it's a generational thing, too.
Both actors are sexy and gorgeous, of course, but both also have chosen difficult film roles that intentionally play down their looks. Both ooze movie-star charisma but both have displayed versatility, as well.
And both will be competing in the category of best actor in a drama at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 15; nominations were announced Thursday morning. Clooney is up for "The Descendants," in which he plays a father struggling to raise his two daughters while his wife is in a coma; Gosling is up for "The Ides of March," in which he plays a cunning campaign strategist for a democratic presidential hopeful ... played by Clooney. (Gosling also received a nomination for best actor in a comedy for playing a ladies man in "Crazy, Stupid, Love.")
Perhaps a little tale of the tape can help us determine an early winner:
AGE: Clooney just turned 50 this year; Gosling is 31.
HEIGHT: Clooney is 5-foot-10; Gosling is 6-foot-1.
HOMETOWN: Clooney was born in Lexington, Ky.; Gosling grew up in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE: For Clooney, it's so hard to choose, simply because he's been around longer and made more movies. Maybe "Syriana" (see below) because it was so demanding both physically and emotionally. But man, is he great in "Michael Clayton." As for Gosling, he had to dig deep for "The Believer" (2001), in which he played a Jewish man who becomes an anti-Semitic skinhead. It was an early indication of his vast talent. But man, is he great in "Blue Valentine."
MOST OUT-THERE PERFORMANCE: Clooney showed his goofy side as a smooth-talking escaped convict in the Coen brothers' 2000 comedy "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Gosling fell in love with a life-sized doll named Bianca in 2007's "Lars and the Real Girl."
BRUSHES WITH OSCAR: Clooney packed on the pounds, grew a shaggy beard and became virtually unrecognizable to play a CIA operative in 2005's "Syriana," which earned him the Academy Award for best supporting actor. That same year, he also was nominated for directing and co-writing the TV news drama "Good Night, and Good Luck." Since then, he's earned two other best-actor nominations: for "Michael Clayton" (2007) and "Up in the Air" (2009). Gosling was a surprise nominee for 2006's "Half Nelson" — not because he was undeserving, far from it, but because it was such a small, little-known film. He played a middle-school teacher with a drug problem.
EMBARRASSING BEGINNINGS: Clooney rocked the mullet in the mid-'80s on the sitcom "The Facts of Life," where he played a handyman named George. Gosling was a member of "The Mickey Mouse Club" in the early 1990s, around the same time as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
"SEXIEST MAN ALIVE" STATUS: Clooney has the rare distinction of winning the annual honor from People magazine twice: in 1997 and 2006. Gosling hasn't won — yet — but this year's winner, Bradley Cooper, has conceded that Gosling deserved the title more than he did.
ON-SCREEN ROMANCES: Clooney: Michelle Pfeiffer ("One Fine Day"); Jennifer Lopez ("Out of Sight"); Julia Roberts ("Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve"); Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Intolerable Cruelty"); Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air"). Gosling: Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook"); Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine") Emma Stone ("Crazy, Stupid, Love"), Carey Mulligan ("Drive"); an anatomically correct sex doll ("Lars and the Real Girl").
OFF-SCREEN ROMANCES: Clooney is divorced from actress Talia Balsam and has dated model Lisa Snowdon, former reality show contestant and cocktail waitress Sarah Larson and actress Elisabetta Canalis. He is now dating former WWE star Stacy Keibler. Gosling previously dated his "Notebook" co-star McAdams and has been linked most recently to Eva Mendes.
THE WINNER: A tie. While Clooney will probably win on Golden Globe night, Gosling is so hot these days he seems unstoppable.
Contact AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire.