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.

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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 Misérables." 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.