Denzel Washington: Flight
Daniel Day-Lewis: Lincon (winner)
Joaquin Phoenix: The Master
Hugh Jackman: Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper: Silver Linings Playbook
There are plenty of movies from 2012 that I haven’t seen, some of which might well have performances that belong here. There are a number that I like quite a bit that would never see the light of day when it comes to Oscar. This year first of all featured a number of ensemble casts that are the sort that don’t get nominated as main roles. These include Cloud Atlas, Seven Psychopaths, The Cabin in the Woods, and especially Moonrise Kingdom. In the unlikely to be nominated category, we have Karl Urban in Dredd and Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe. Also in this category is Daniel Craig in Skyfall since James Bond films really don’t get any respect come Oscar time. Some people would suggest that Suraj Sharma should have been nominated for Life of Pi, and I can see that even if I don’t like the film that much. Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus is probably a longshot. The person I’d most want here is Jean-Louis Trintignant for his work in Amour.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’m dumping Hugh Jackman and Les Miserables right away. Jackman is fine in the movie, even good, but this hits right on one of my biases. I simply don’t like the story, even a version of it with a solid cast and a ton of production values. Jackman is actually pretty effective as Jean Valjean, and it’s one of his better performances. I would much rather see Jean-Louis Trintignant here. Jackman may be getting penalized because of my dislike of the source material. I accept that as a possibility.
4. Of the films that were nominated here, Silver Linings Playbook is probably the one I like the best. So what is Bradley Cooper doing in fourth place? Well, the other performances are better. Cooper is right on the edge of who I’d like to be nominated here. I wouldn’t be terribly upset if we’d had someone else here in his place. It’s a good role in that it shows the guy from The Hangover movies was capable of doing a lot more. Perhaps it just comes across as a little too manic for me.
3. I don’t normally want to push for a tie here, but deciding between second and third was the toughest decision I had here. I’m ultimately putting what I think is Joaquin Phoenix’s best performance in third, but it’s by a margin of a Planck length. I don’t know that I want to watch The Master again, but in it, Phoenix manages to offer up a performance of a person with virtually no positive characteristics and he does it with complete abandon. It’s both ugly and mesmerizing, and in a career of good performances, it ranks as one of his most gripping. It’s just not the year’s best.
2. Denzel Washington often plays good guys. Sometimes, he plays bad guys. In Flight, he does something that is pretty rare for him. His Whip Whittaker is someone who isn’t really good and isn’t evil in a traditional sense. He’s simply very troubled and completely consumed by his demons. Washington has a career of great roles and his work in Flight still stands out among them. In a lesser year, I’d have no problem handing him the statue. Sadly for him, 2012 just wasn’t meant to be his year.
1. This is one of those odd years where I think Oscar managed to get the right answer. Daniel Day-Lewis is probably the greatest living actor right now and he has been for some time. His portrayal of Lincoln in the film of the same name is the single greatest performance on the screen, and he was the right person to win. Day-Lewis makes it look easy and makes his characters look natural. Better, he manages to give us the sort of Lincoln that we want the man to be. It may at least be partially myth making, but this is how we want to see Lincoln, and Day-Lewis did it the way it needed to be done.