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Joaquin Phoenix - 'The Master'
Pro: Phoenix is a two-time Oscar nominee. He was first nominated in 2001 in the supporting category for "Gladiator" and he also received BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations for his performance. In 2006, he was nominated in the lead actor category for his amazing turn as Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line." He received BAFTA and SAG Award nominations for his portrayal and also won a Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy and a Grammy Award for his contributions to the soundtrack. In "The Master," Phoenix gives a phenomenal turn as a mentally unbalanced WWII veteran who comes under the watch of a charismatic religious prophet (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Both Phoenix and Hoffman (a supporting performance) have already won the best actor honor at the 2012 Venice Film Festival for their work. At this point in the season, Phoenix portrayal is so strong has to be one of the frontrunners to win his first Oscar. At a minimum, something dramatic would have to occur for him not to land a nomination.
Con: The big question is how much damage did Phoenix's pseudo documentary "I'm Still Here" do to his career? Both he and director Casey Affleck took big hits from the media and, more surprisingly, the industry who were appalled they tried to keep the charade going as long as they did. Considering Phoenix didn't have a charming reputation before the "doc" he's got a big hill to climb for people to take him seriously again, let alone like him. That may seem unimportant compared to the dramatic heights of his "Master"-ful turn, but you can't take the popularity contest out of Oscar. It will always be part of the equation.
- Gregory Ellwood