This year has been an amazing one for films. In any given year the “front runner” status for Oscar grandeur is usually taken and held fairly early in the voting process. There is rarely any doubt about who should or will take the top honors or at most it yoyos between a couple of contenders. This year is almost an embarrassment of riches with many wonderful movies and performances.
Only one category seems to have been consigned to the foregone conclusion file and that is the anointing of Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor in Lincoln despite the rather formidable competition. Now there is no denying the genius of the genial gentleman from Ireland or the performance he gave as the iconic 16th President of the United States, but I simply don’t believe the verdict is quite so cut and dried. The actors, their films, and the filming times are shown below. While filming time doesn’t tell you about quality of performance, it does give you some idea of the preparation and effort it takes to deliver the final product.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln (Two Months To Film)
Denzel Washington, Flight (45 Days to Film)
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables (2 Months rehearsals and 3 1/2 Months to Film)
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master (One Month to Film)
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook (33 Days to Film)
Of the five above, I’m afraid this year I must discount two for the prize unless there is some sort of weird vote splitting and numbers crunching in the new Academy Awards voting system. Denzel is his usual accomplished and amazing self. If you ever want an earful ask me what I think of his 35 year career and Cry Freedom and Devil in a Blue Dress in particular, then prepare yourself for a barrage of gushing and fangirl squee. Unfortunately, this year his very worthy performance is in a basically generic and forgettable film (well except for that upside down plane).
Bradley Cooper is a good actor. I’ve always thought of him as a journeyman who always delivers what is expected of him even if the majority of his films are not to my taste. He is good in this movie bolstered by the great Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver to give import to his role. The problem is that, at best, I think this film is too lightweight and, at worst, I really, truly dislike it for a whole lot of reasons some personal.
That brings us to three amazing actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, and Joaquin Phoenix in three totally different, iconic roles that will forever remain on their resumes and mentioned when people discuss great acting. When you are discussing expertise at this level, you can’t say “best”. You can only say “favorite”. The only way to measure for voting purposes is how much effort did it take to create and perform the role? The first judgement about that measure Is up in the time to film numbers. The second will take place when the actors of the Screen Actors Guild make their choice known on January 27.
I love the Daniel Day-Lewis performance in Lincoln, but in my opinion, it is not one of his absolute finest, though how you differentiate is all speculative. I did not like The Master, but cannot deny the talent that brought a character as disturbing as Freddie to life. I’ve made no secret that my choice this year is Hugh Jackman simply because I’ve long thought of him as a great actor overlooked and under valued. This year, he gave me the gift of Jean Val Jean on-screen after 27 years of waiting since first seeing the musical on stage in 1985. For your judgement, I’ve let the gentlemen speak for themselves in interview and film clips.