Oscar analysis: Bad day for 'Argo,' 'Les Mis' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

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Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

To paraphrase a line from Lincoln: “This category, sir? It’s done.” Daniel Day-Lewis is the clear front-runner, and only a complete meltdown would topple him.

Otherwise … poor John Hawkes. The star of The Sessions, who brought such wit and charm to the character of a severely disabled man looking for love before his life ends, seemed like a sure thing. That was especially true after The Master‘s Joaquin Phoenix gave an interview slagging the Oscar campaign process, which many people interpreted (incorrectly) as a slam on the Academy Awards themselves. But Hawkes, who was a best supporting actor nominee for Winter’s Bone two years ago, simply didn’t woo enough voters to land a nomination.

Prize Fighter score: I got four out of the five, believing Hawkes was in. Back in October, I wrote about the controversial Phoenix interview and speculated that he may have actually improved his chances at getting a nomination because many Academy members agree — the glad-handing and electioneering that accompanies the Oscar race can be kind of soul-sucking. But his name seemed to be greeted with shrugs by many Oscar voters as the months wore on, and I came to think he had actually done himself in.

Lesson learned: Sometimes it’s better to stick with your first impression. Also, expect the new trend in campaigning next year to of the “Screw the Oscar campaign!” variety.

Next Page: The Best Actress category …

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