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.
Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook." This nomination suggests that people are finally taking Cooper seriously after his "Hangover" comedies. A win could be in his future, but probably not this time.
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.
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.