This Sunday, a hotly contested awards season will come to a close with the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. This year, the nominated actors appear in comedies, biopics, musicals and dramas, but all offer strong performances. Between the ten, they have thirty-five Oscar nominations and ten wins. All but two of the actors have previously received Oscar nominations, and seven have won at least one statuette. While the Best Actor competition seems uncontested, the field is wide open in Best Supporting Actor. It will be interesting to see which nominees actually take home the award on Sunday!
Bradley Cooper  (Silver Linings Playbook): With beginnings in television, including the successful spy drama, Alias , Cooper has since appeared in many box office hits, including The Hangover and The A-Team . Nominated for his role as Pat, a bipolar man struggling to rebuild his life after spending eight months in a mental health facility, this is Cooper’s first Academy Award nomination. Although a win at Sunday’s ceremony is unlikely, he has proven himself as an actor to watch.
Daniel Day-Lewis  (Lincoln): Known for extreme method acting, thoughtful role selection, and consistent talent, this is Day-Lewis’ fifth Oscar nomination, with two Best Actor wins for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood . His subtle, nuanced portrayal of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during the final four months of his life and his push to abolish slavery and end the Civil War received nearly unanimous critical and audience praise. With wins already at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, and the BAFTAs, Day-Lewis seems like the man to beat. If he does win the Oscar this Sunday, he will become the first man to win three Best Actor awards.
Hugh Jackman  (Les Misérables): With credits in everything from sweeping dramas to superhero flicks, period pieces and action films, Jackman is a versatile actor with huge fan appeal. With a Tony Award under his belt for his performance in the musical The Boy from Oz, Jackman is no stranger to the world of musicals. His emotional portrayal of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict on the run in revolutionary France, earned Jackman his first Academy Award nomination. Although a win for Jackman would be a surprise in such a heavily weighted category, he did receive a Golden Globe for his performance.
Joaquin Phoenix  (The Master): In The Master, Phoenix plays a troubled World War II veteran who, while struggling to adjust to post-war life, receives guidance from the charismatic leader of a religious movement. A child actor with a tumultuous career, Phoenix first reached critical acclaim in the early 2000’s. This is his third Academy Award nomination, with previous nominations for Supporting Actor in Gladiator  and Actor in Walk the Line .
Denzel Washington  (Flight): A well-respected actor known for his roles in action movies (Safe House and Unstoppable ) and challenging biopics (Malcolm X  and The Hurricane), Washington is no stranger to awards season. In Flight, he deftly portrays an alcoholic airline captain embroiled in a criminal trial after a commercial plane crash. This is his sixth Academy Award nomination, with two wins for Supporting Actor in Glory  and Actor in Training Day .
Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin  (Argo): Only one of six actors to receive a Best Actor nomination for his first feature film role, Arkin has had a successful, multi-faceted acting career. Since his first nomination in 1966, Arkin has been nominated three other times, with one win for Supporting Actor in Little Miss Sunshine . Arkin’s most recent nomination is for his comic portrayal of a film producer working with a CIA exfiltration specialist to rescue American embassy workers trapped in Tehran.
Robert De Niro  (Silver Linings Playbook): Since his first acting role in the 1960’s, De Niro has had a successful career as an actor. Over the years, his compelling work in iconic films garnered numerous awards, including seven Oscar nominations with two wins (Supporting Actor for The Godfather Part II , Actor for Raging Bull ). His latest nomination is for his touching performance as a down on his luck father, turned bookie.
Philip Seymour Hoffman  (The Master): Recognized for his work playing the leader of religious movement who takes a troubled World War II veteran under his wing, this is Hoffman’s fourth Oscar nomination. Hoffman only has one Academy Award under his belt (Best Actor for his compelling turn as Truman Capote in Capote ), but in such a strong category, this year’s win could be fair game.
Tommy Lee Jones  (Lincoln): In Lincoln, Jones received critical acclaim for his bombastic portrayal of radical Republican congressman Thaddeus Stephens, an abolitionist working to pass the 13th Amendment. This is Jones’ fourth Academy Award nomination, with one Supporting Actor win for The Fugitive . Although the competition in this category is tough, Jones’ Screen Actors Guild win could give him a push in the right direction.
Christoph Waltz  (Django Unchained): Although a relative unknown until his Academy Award-winning performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009, Austrian-born Waltz has a strong history in television and on the stage. In his most recent Tarantino collaboration, Waltz plays a German dentist turned bounty hunter who helps a freed slave rescue his wife. This year’s Oscar could easily go to any of the nominees, but Waltz’s Golden Globe and BAFTA wins might give him a slight advantage.
So far this awards season, I have only seen two of the nominated movies. Despite that, I know which actors I would like to see win at the Academy Awards. Who will you be rooting for this Sunday?
The Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 24th at 6:00pm on ABC.