Without having seen ANY of the following performances, at this point, these are the 10 potential Best Actor nominees I feel are the most likely to find their way into the final 5. As Oscar season approaches, this page will be continuously updated. Check in every once in a while and feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below!
1. Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Like him or not, Phoenix is a fantastic actor. Though I personally have trouble seeing him winning the Oscar at this point, a nomination is practically guaranteed. Critics all over the place are going on and on about his performance, and though I haven't seen it myself, who am I to disagree? Paul Thomas Anderson knows how to get the best from his actors, and with 2 nominations already to his name, Joaquin Phoenix is an early favorite. Once I actually have the opportunity to watch the movie, I'm sure I will be able to have a better idea how good of a chance he has of winning the Oscar, but I don't need to have seen it to know he's getting a nomination.
2. Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
This guy is probably the greatest working actor, and in a role with this much potential, I find it hard to believe he won't be seriously considered as the first man to win 3 Best Actor Oscars. Oddly, Spielberg has never directed an actor to an Oscar-winning performance, so this would be a long-shot. I do fear this may turn out to be this year's 'J. Edgar', which I even went on the record before it was released saying that I was 100% sure DiCaprio would be earning a nomination for. Lesson learned. Despite the poor trailer, Daniel Day-Lewis is still a fantastic actor, and I have no doubt he will run away with the role. And I hope he does; we haven't seen a great performance from him in 5 years.
3. Anthony Hopkins - Hitchcock
15 years since his last nomination. The role is Alfred Hitchcock. Release date changes from 2013 to November of this year. Early images lead me to believe this role has the potential to take it all, but nothing is too set in stone until we see a little more. At this point, the Best Actor race (as well as a few other categories) just got interesting. In some images, the prosthetics used to transform Hopkins look quite strange, but maybe in post-production all the fine details will be hammered out to make him look as much like the man as possible. Either way, it's hard not to look at this as a serious contender from this point on.
4. John Hawkes - The Sessions
And this is where things get dodgy. Sundance movies don't generally find their way onto Oscar ballots (due to their extremely early release dates), but the people behind the distribution of this movie have managed to keep interest for the better part of a year, and from all I've heard, this is a performance totally deserving of an Oscar. But so was Michael Shannon in last year's 'Take Shelter', so could this be ignored come January? It's quite likely, but I can see it holding on for a little longer. John Hawkes has proven himself to be a fantastic actor, and having been snubbed just last year for 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', I think the Academy will be sure to let him in this time.
5. Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables
And here is where things get dodgy. Hugh Jackman isn't a critically-acclaimed actor, but if he ever had a chance to prove himself, it would be in this. The role has a lot of potential, and with his singing voice, he just might leave a strong impression on the Academy. This is anything but a sure-fire prediction, but it's the best I've got to go on at the moment.
6. Clint Eastwood - Trouble With The Curve
Had Eastwood not recently found himself at the center of a good deal of ridicule for his appearance at the Republican National Convention, this would be a safer bet -- sadly, politics do play a factor in what the Academy chooses to reward. But Eastwood's performance may be strong enough to earn him that one last nomination.
7. Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
Cooper is not the kind of actor I generally think of as an Oscar contender, and in a comedy, his chances are even lower. But with the praise this movie and his performance have received up to this point, I would say he stands a decent chance.
8. Bill Murray - Hyde Park On Hudson
Before the lukewarm reviews this has received, I thought this may have been a serious contender. At this point, I'm not so sure. But Bill Murray may still be in the running.
9. Denzel Washington - Flight
I think Washington will really need to impress in this movie to earn any kind of nominations, but that doesn't mean he won't be considered. He has the potential, the material just needs to be right.
10. Jean-Louis Trintignant - Amour
Foreign Best Actor nominees are exceedingly rare, and despite the acclaim both the film and the performance have received up to this point, a nomination here is still a serious long-shot.
11. Brad Pitt - Killing Them Softly
His performance has received praise, but this isn't the kind of movie I can see him getting anything for. With his impending retirement, Pitt is yet to win an Oscar after 3 nominations. This is why I think he might have a chance.