Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington square off
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
Down the stretch in phase one, and certainly once the nominees had been set in stone, an obvious Best Actor frontrunner emerged as maybe the safest bet on Oscar night. But the Best Actor race was competitive all season long in the nominations stage. A tight seven- or eight-horse race led to surprises here and there in the various precursor announcements, and even a slight one in the ultimate nominations announcement.
SAG nominee and expected contender John Hawkes ("The Sessions") was left on the sidelines, but he joined hopefuls like Jean-Louis Trintignant ("Amour"), Anthony Hopkins ("Hitchcock"), as well as Golden Globe-nominee Richard Gere ("Arbitrage") and BAFTA nominee Ben Affleck ("Argo") on the outside. But the ultimate line-up featured the ill and the impaired, the criminal and the Presidential, as two Oscar virgins joined a trio nominated a collective 14 times over the years.
The nominees are…