Of all the performers up for Oscars this year, the best actor nominees arguably delivered the strongest performances. These are heavy hitters at the top of their games, from Daniel Day-Lewis to Joaquin Phoenix. As for Bradley Cooper, it's time to admit it: He really can act. And for those who haven't yet figured out the winner, here's a hint: Even a Civil War couldn't stop him.
Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master." He's astonishing as an emotionally crippled war veteran, but the movie left audiences cold. This is Phoenix's third Oscar nomination.
Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables." In a different year, Jackman might have won for his moving, full-throated performance as the ex-convict Jean Valjean.
Denzel Washington, "Flight." Everyone who saw this film loved Washington's rollicking but deep-reaching performance as an alcoholic pilot. Again, in a different year, he could have been the winner.
Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln." Last August, when the studio released early glimpses of Day-Lewis as Lincoln, even the photos seemed Oscar-worthy. This one's a lock.