Best Actor at the Oscars

The Oscars, celebrating the best films and acting performances of the last year, will be held in March 2014 and week by week the Academy Awards edges closer. After profiling the likely Best Picture nominees my attention now turns to the leading men that the critics are tipping to shine on awards night.

Nominees will hope to follow in the footsteps of recent winners Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln last year, Jean Dujardin for  The Artist (2012) and Colin Firth in The King’s Speech (2011). You might think that to be in with a shout, an actor has to be in a Best Picture-nominated film, but this is not always the case. Joaquin Phoenix, for example, got a spot in the top five for his impressive turn in The Master, but the film missed out on a nomination for the grand prize.

Flashback to last year

When a certain method actor is up for the award, there is only ever going to be one winner. Daniel Day Lewis, Britain’s worldwide star, never really had much competition when it came to the award for best actor being handed out. In Lincoln, he truly inhabited the expansive shoes and lofty stature of one of the most notable Presidents of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. At three hours in length, the movie dragged at times, but Lincoln’s talent and depth of character made sure that it wasn’t his performance that allowed interest to drift.

And it wasn’t a one-off – in a long career Day Lewis has dedicated himself to parts he takes on, with My Left Foot, Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood, among others, all pure cinematic beauty from an acting perspective. As with Colin Firth as George VI in The Kings Speech (2011), Ben Kingsley as Gandhi in the film of the same name and F. Murray Abraham as Mozart in Amadeus, Day Lewis made us believe that the great president was appearing live on the screen. This years batch of contenders also feature a wealth of biopics and true-life stories, so the pressure is on to make such a level of impact on the audience.

But there were other nominees, and their performances should be celebrated. Flight and The Master were both well received by movie-goers and critics alike but the competition was so fierce that they could not squeeze into the nominations. However, Denzel Washington playing flight captain Whip Whitaker in Flight, and Joaquin Phoenix taking on the character of WWII veteran Freddie Quell in The Master landed a place in the top five nominations.

The other two contenders were less of a surprise because their films made the Best Picture list. Hugh Jackman shone alongside Anne Hathaway in an all-star cast for the adapation of musical Les Miserables. And Bradley Cooper was equally impressive in Silver Linings Playbook, the ying to Jennifer Lawrence’s yang as a man with bipolar disorder hoping to be reunited with his wife. But despite these strong performances, Day-Lewis was always going to be the winner.

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