• Zach Youngs

Academy of One: Best Actor in a Leading Role 2012

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

Many actors have been called upon as the greatest of all time. A lot of the leading voices of film criticism have bestowed that title on one of the actors of today’s discussion, Daniel Day-Lewis.

I have been in that camp before, but as my autodidactic film education has expanded beyond the scope of the small groups of film pundits, I’ve learned to see the greater value in many other actors working today.

This is all to say, I will be taking a similar approach as I did with the actors in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category of 2013, but I will not propose any of my own choices or preferences. I believe this is such a strong field,

I have no one to bring in. The actors will be ranked from least to best.

So, with all that written, here is the list of actors I’ll be discussing today.

  • Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook

  • Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln

  • Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables

  • Joaquin Phoenix - The Master

  • Denzel Washington - Flight

To kick us off, I think Bradley Cooper is the weakest of these contenders. This is his first nominated performance. It’s strange to say that as at this point in 2017. It feels as though he’s been in contention forever, but with this performance he really did make an impression as an emotionally challenged man who wants to create a future for himself. I still don’t think he delved deeply enough into the character to really make me think I wasn’t seeing Bradley Cooper up on the screen, though.

As the umpteenth actor to take on the role of Jean Val Jean, Hugh Jackmanhad some mighty big shoes to fill. His voice is his greatest asset and he powerfully commands the screen he’s on even as his face over powers our senses. He’s able to breathe a little life and a whole ton of intensity into a dingy, gritty version of an iconic musical.

Joaquin Phoenix is one of those actors who doesn’t just take a page from the book of actors who excelled at Method Acting, he scribbles in the margins and tears out things he doesn’t like, which no doubt helped him play the unhinged, uncooperative, uncontrollable Freddie Quell. It’s such a physical and brutal performance that it’s almost a detriment to the plot and flow of the film.

There is no way Captain Whip Whitacre of Flight was written with Denzel Washington in mind, but this is what he does. He’s able to take a character that could have been one note, an alcoholic/drug addict, and elevate them beyond the premise of the film. From the first scene to last, it’s Washington’s film and there is no way any other actor could have pulled it off.

As is now plain, my choice out of the nominees is Daniel Day-Lewis. He is the Method actor’s, Method actor. The man who erases himself completely from existence for the period of filming and it really pays off here.

There’s very little we can say with incontrovertible certainty about the actions of any president or world leader before the advent of television or radio. We only have the perception of themselves or the people who wrote about them.

Yet, Day-Lewis’ performance has the ability to be something approaching definitive. Whether or not we know certain facts to be fudged, it’s a performance that truly sheds any speck of the performer beneath. There is no actor on that screen. That is Abraham Lincoln we see. It was truly the best performance of the year and likely to be labelled as one of the greatest performances of all time.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit my website, www.zachyoungs.com for links to where you can buy my self-published works. Here on my blog you may also be interested to read a few serialized blog stories that I post every Wednesday and Sunday.

A new post of Academy of One will be available every Friday on this very site.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to dive in with you next Friday when I dissect the Best Actor in a Supporting Role nominees for 2012.

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