By David Salazar ( | First Posted: Jan 02, 2013 01:21 PM EST

Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln" (Photo : Paramount Pictures)

The Best Actor race is one of the least suspenseful races at the moment with few actors actually competing for the five Academy Award slots. However, there is the potential for some major surprises in this category when the nominations are announced on Jan. 10, 2013.

The Locks

As is the case with almost every other case, there are three locks in this category. Daniel Day-Lewis has won almost every precursor award for Best Actor to date for his turn as the 16th President of the United States in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." In total, he has a whopping 17 Best Actor wins, more than any other nominee in any other category. Among the organizations that have awarded Day-Lewis are the New York Film Critics, the Boston Film Critics, the Washington DC Film Critics, and the San Francisco Film Awards. He was also nominated for the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAGs), and the Critics Choice Awards. Day-Lewis has won two Oscars, with his last one coming in 2008 for "There Will Be Blood."

The second actor who will undoubtedly be nominated is John Hawkes for his performance in "The Sessions." Hawkes has only won one precursor award for Best Actor, but his nominations for the SAGs, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice Awards. Before Day-Lewis broke on the scene, he was considered a major contender to win the award. Hawkes was nominated for his only Oscar back in 2011 for his work in "Winter's Bone."

The final lock for this category is Denzel Washington for his performance in "Flight." Washington won the Best Actor award from the African American Film Critics and was also nominated for the SAGs, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice Awards. The actor has been nominated for five Academy Awards and has won twice; in 1990 he picked up the golden statue for his supporting role in "Glory" while his last Oscar came in 2002 for his leading role in "Training Day."

The Major Contenders for the Final Two Spots

"The Master's" Joaquin Phoenix was widely believed to be the front-runner to win the award back in September, but the combination of Day-Lewis and Phoenix's attacks on awards have put his nomination in peril. Back in October, the actor stated publicly that he hated awards. "I think it's total, utter [expletive], and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it. It's a carrot, but it's the worst-tasting carrot I've ever tasted in my whole life... Pitting people against each other... it's the stupidest thing in the whole world."

He added that, "It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when 'Walk the Line' was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again." He later retracted his statement and thanked the Oscars for jumpstarting his career, but it seemed that the damage had already been done. His turn in "The Master" was subsequently ignored by the SAGs, which is made up of a major contingent of Oscar voters. Even though he was nominated for the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice, the omission from the SAGs could be pretty telling. Phoenix does have a history with the Academy and was nominated for his performances in "Gladiator (2001)" and "Walk the Line(2006)."

Joaquin Phoenix in
Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master" (The Weinstein Company)

Bradley Cooper surprised the world with his performance in "Silver Linings Playbook" as it portrayed the emotional range of the actor who was known mainly for comedies such as "The Hangover." He was subsequently awarded with four precursor awards for best actor; three of which come from major organizations. The Hollywood Film Awards, National Board of Review, and Satellite Awards all thought Cooper delivered the best male performance of the year and the SAGs, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice all honored him with a nomination. Cooper has never been nominated for an Oscar.
Hugh Jackman has never been nominated for Oscar either, but he has a really great chance after his performance as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." Hugh Jackman has not won any precursors, but his nominations at the Golden Globes, SAGs, and Critics Choice places him in line for a nomination.

Long shots

Back in 2009, Kate Winslet won Best Lead Actress for her role in "The Reader." However, she won a Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG for the role in the supporting category. After those victories, the British Academy of TV/Film Awards nominated her for Best Lead Actress for that role and the ensuing campaign pushed for her nomination in the same category. Her nomination was a complete shock and altered the state of the race completely. This could potentially happen in this race. As aforementioned, Joaquin Phoenix's position in the category is shaky and with the supporting actor race a bit tight, Harvey Weinstein and company could start shifting their campaign for Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performance in "The Master." It could be argued that both Hoffman and Phoenix share lead roles in the film and that the title actually refers to Hoffman. If the campaign were to shift, Hoffman has enough buzz to potentially steal a spot in this category and even win it. Hoffman has won one Oscar (2006 for "Capote") and received two subsequent nominations.

Jack Black's performance in "Bernie" earned him a Golden Globe nomination and he could potentially surprise in this category. He has not really had much of a campaign or buzz, which makes his chances minimal at best.

One actor that has lost steam is Richard Gere for his performance in "Arbitrage." Early in the race, pundits were clamoring for a nomination for Gere, but he has not won any critics choice awards. He did earn a Golden Globe nomination, which should not be overlooked.

Predictions: I think that the Academy forgives Phoenix's comments and gives him one of the two final spots. They sacrifice Bradley Cooper (with Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence likely doing well in their respective categories) and nominate Hugh Jackman for his versatile performance that includes lengthy segments of singing.

Read About the State of the Best Lead Actress Race

Read About the State of the Best Supporting Actress Race

Read About the State of the Best Supporting Actor Race

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Who Do You Think Should Be Nominated? Who Should Win? Send Us Your Comments Below or Tweet Me at @LatinosPostDave.

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