"I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed."
That's Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood. Don't you ever forget that he's the only man standing to hold three Best Actor Oscars. He's the biggest boss we've seen thus far, and all of 2013's big performers, like Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, would do well to remember that this awards season.
Meryl Streep is in a movie this year about family, failed poetry, and, duh, alcoholism, so all the performers looking for Best Actress statuettes must be shook too.
But Streep's most fearsome creations are mere dust to DDL, who method acts his entire life. One time that bitch-ass no-day-lewis Liam Neeson said, "There’s a lot of bullshit in acting. I’m not criticising those guys as actors but sometimes you just have to show up and deliver a speech. You don’t have to pretend to be somebody, I like to think I am enough."
Just to check: Yep, Neeson has another Taken movie lined up. Daniel Day-Lewis, meanwhile, is waiting for his next project after winning an Oscar playing Abraham Lincoln better in a performance even John Wilkes Booth's corpse had to give it up for.
And so DDL has words for 2013's Oscar hopefuls. And he's been preparing them for decades.
Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station
Biggest challenge: Making the audience empathize with someone who's been portrayed in the media as a delinquent ex-con.
Biggest scene: The film's inevitable, heartbreaking climax, when Oscar's heated attempt to prove his innocence to the cops results in his being wrongfuly shot in a train station.
Why the peformance might get ignored: When Fruitvale Station opened in theaters in July, everyone was talking about Jordan's remarkable performance. But that was four months ago, and now that the awards season is really kicking into gear, there's a chance that Fruitvale Station may have peaked too early.
DDL says: "Shall we stop this bleeding?"
Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniels' The Butler
Biggest challenge: Being the emotional tour guides of sorts for a film that spans eight decades and more historical events than a week's worth of high school history classes.
Biggest scene: During a particularly tense family dinner, Cecil Gaines passionately defends himself against his militant son's claims that he's a sell-out.
Why the peformance might get ignored: As usual, the Best Actor field is extremely crowded, with Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Robert Redford (All is Lost), and Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) considered to be shoe-ins at this point. That leaves one spot open, and the steam seems to be building around Nebraska's Bruce Dern, a nostalgic pick not unlike Christopher Plummer in 2011 for Beginners. Forest Whitaker will most likely be stuck on the outside looking in.
DDL says: "If you get all of us together, we ain't got a gang, we've got an army."
Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines in Lee Daniels' The Butler
Biggest challenge: Making audiences forget that she's, you know, Oprah Winfrey while being the film's underlying heart and soul.
Biggest scene: Unable to internalize her anger anymore, Gloria, while intoxicated, tells Cecil how she really feels about his long work hours and detachment from their family.
Why the peformance might get ignored: You do realize that Oprah Winfrey runs the world, right? There's not a chance in hell that anything she does will ever be ignored, specifically a showy performance in a grandiose, Oscar-baiting hit movie. But if she were...
DDL says: "This is an outrage!"
Brie Larson as Grace in Short Term 12
Biggest challenge: Leading what easily could have been a melodramatic afterschool special of a movie with the right touches of naturalism, internalized anger, and raw emotion.
Biggest scene: After receiving a phone call alerting her that her father's getting out of jail, Grace breaks down and rejects her loving boyfriend Mason's (John Gallgher, Jr.) affection.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Short Term 12 is, without a doubt, one of the year's best movies, but it's also one of the year's smallest movies. It's backed by Cinedigm, an independent and still on-the-rise distribution company with minimal power, unfortunately—in a world where the Harvey Weinstein's of the game reign supreme and weild industry muscle to get their actors nominations, Brie Larson and her tiny movie are Jason standing before too many Goliaths.
DDL says: "If you don't like your situation, then change it. If you can't change it, then leave it. It's your fucking life, man."
Cate Blanchett as Jasmine in Blue Jasmine
Biggest challenge: Convincingly playing a manic-depressive snob.
Biggest scene: In the final moments on the film, Jasmine, with smeared make-up and disheveled clothing, loses her mind entirely, wandering the San Francisco streets talking to herself.
Why the peformance might get ignored: It won't. Because she's Cate Blanchett.
DDL says: "You're a dangerous fucking woman."
Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone in Gravity
Biggest challenge: Trying to maintain her sanity as she was put through rigorous techniques to simulate movement in zero-gravity.
Biggest scene: With all her hope dissipated, Bullock's Ryan decides to end her life. As the oxygen escapes her station, she talks to someone at China's mission control, despite the fact that they can't understand each other. The only time they truly communicate is when they both simulate the barking sound the Chinese man's dog is making.
Why the peformance might get ignored: The Academy will realize that Cuaron's impressive direction was the reason why everything else in the film looked 100 times better than it is.
DDL says: "I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. So because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth.
Meryl Streep as Violet Weston in August: Osage County
Biggest challenge: Making alcoholism likeable. Certainly nothing to do with the Oklahoma accent, never that.
Biggest scene: The scene on the poster looks like a big one. Honestly, with this shit show, isn't the entire thing one big scene?
Why the peformance might get ignored: One more award may bring down her entire trophy cabinet.
DDL says: "You still have it."
Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston in August: Osage County
Biggest challenge: Meryl Streep.
Biggest scene: One without Meryl Streep.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Meryl Streep.
DDL says: *Uncontrollable laughing*
Barkhad Abdi as Muse in Captain Phillips
Biggest challenge: Pushing around Tom Hanks, the most loveable man in America; not feeling like a traitor to his birthplace.
Biggest scene: Any time Abdi and Hanks get to jawing in the lifeboat in the final act is electric and weirdly satisfying, if only because the film is so evenhanded in its depiction of the situation. No one makes big speeches. No one waxes poetics. Each character must move in time to the direness of the situation, and that doesn't allow for any Tarantino-esque poesy.
Why the peformance might get ignored: In the film, Abdi's character is eventually subsumed by the American military. If everyone rallies around Hanks, it'll unfold the same way.
DDL says: "I just dropped in to see how you boys was doing."
Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips
Biggest challenge: Looking homely; expressing the true horror of shock in the face of terrible violence.
Biggest scene: Shaking like a Polaroid picture after a long and nasty boat ride with some pirates.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Impossible. The Academy can't resist Tom Hanks. It's all the catnip he keeps in his pinchable cheeks. (And, you know, the movie is a well-paced thriller that visually represents economic disparity and the chasms created by capitalism without having any of the characters get too preachy.)
DDL says: "We should travel everywhere."
Robert Redford as Our Man in All Is Lost
Biggest challenge: Carrying an entire movie without any dialogue or human co-stars.
Biggest scene: Thinking the end is near, Redford's unnamed protagonist writes a farewell letter-in-a-bottle to his loved ones. The shattering remorse is written all over Redford's face.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Seems about as likely as an All is Lost/Castaway mash-up movie starring Redford and Wilson. Redford is Hollywood royalty, starring in one of the year's best-reviewed films, all on his own. This one's practically engineered to receive Oscar nods.
DDL says: "You be strong, you survive. You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you."
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave
Biggest challenge: Playing a beaten-down slave with emotional and physical control.
Biggest scene: Although at first he's reluctant to align himself with the rest of the slaves, the realization that he's just like everyone else hits him during a funeral scene for one of the other workers. As people around him sing, his eyes wander and he hesitates a bit before heartily joining in on the chorus, his body slightly letting loose in relief.
Why the peformance might get ignored: It won't because 12 Years A Slave is a lock for Best Picture.
DDL says: "I'm dead impressed by all this."
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave
Biggest challenge: Embodying Bible-thumping racism and self-loathing as plantation owner Edwin Epps; rape.
Biggest scene: Either his introduction, where the camera lingers on an uncomfortable closeup of Fassbender's face spouting off scripture as justification for beating the men and women he's kidnapped and forced into labor; or the horrible long-take whipping, where he demands that Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) beat Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o)
Why the peformance might get ignored: Every day he wakes up white in a movie that ain't. (But really, there are many gifted actors and actresses in this incredible movie, and the ones who should be recognized aren't Fassbender—even though he's great.)
DDL says: "I'm 47. Forty-seven years old. You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts."
Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave
Biggest challenge: Maintaining her dignity under the terrifying control and subjugation of a racist bible-quoting rapist drunk.
Biggest scene: When she reaches her breaking point with Edwin Epps after he acosts her over a trip to get a bar of soap. She breaks. She shouts. She explodes.
Why the peformance might get ignored: No chance. No fucking chance. If you've seen the movie, you understand.
DDL says: "That there is a great, invisible strength in a people's union. Say we've shown that a people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere."
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club
Biggest challenge: Losing nearly 50 pounds to portray a man afflicted with AIDS.
Biggest scene: Ron charges into a hospital and physically bumrushes the doctor who's given his late friend the drugs that, in Ron eye's, killed him.
Why the peformance might get ignored: McConaughey deserves the attention after being overlooked last year for any one of his excellent comeback-year performances. His chances at Oscar participation this year are sky-high, but Dallas Buyers Club isn't exactly lighting box offices on fire. Still, McConaughey's star stature doesn't need ticket sales to give him momentum here.
DDL says: "Each of us has made it possible for the other to do terrible things."
Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club
Biggest challenge: Believably portraying a transgender woman.
Biggest scene: Dressed in his plainest men's outfit (i.e., a two-piece suit), Rayon tearfully tells his father, who's rejected him, that he's dying from AIDS.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Though the critics love it, Dallas Buyers Club is a small, unshowy movie fighting for eyeballs in a crowded marketplace, and Matthew McConaughey's the face of the movie. It doesn't seem likely, given the steadily growing hype around Leto's performance, but if either Dallas Buyers Club actor is about to get snubbed, Leto might be the one.
DDL says: "There's no reason to be scared. You have nothing to be scared about."
Bruce Dern as Woody Grant in Nebraska
Biggest challenge: Not dying? (Sorry, he just looks so old.)
Biggest scene: With Alexander Payne's low-key style, it's more about a collection of semi-major events and revelations than something huge. Here, it'll be the slow accumulation of Woody trying to pee despite prostate problems.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Payne is low-key, so the film's impact might not register. But the committe can't miss Dern. He's a vet.
DDL says: "My trust in him is marrow deep."
Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Biggest challenge: Creating a memorable interpretation of Neslon Mandela people haven't seen before; a believable South African accent; not hulking out too much.
Biggest scene: His speech to hundreds of thousands of South Africans after being released from 27-year prison sentence.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Small profile and little buzz heading into award season. And the Academy might be more interested in this year's movies dealing with civil rights in America.
DDL says: "I wonder why you just don't go back to Europe."
Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Biggest challenge: Jennifer Hudson played the title role of Winnie Mandela just two years ago, so differentiating and elevating her portrayal of Winne Mandela above countless other actresses.
Biggest scene: Any scene that isn't dominated by Mandela's presence.
Why the peformance might get ignored: She plays the wife of the most revered champion of civil rights and equality in this century.
DDL says: "The world is collapsing outside. And I have an erection."
Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena
Biggest challenge: Outdueling Steve Coogan to wrest our attention away from the O.G. ladyboy, Mr. Alan Partridge.
Biggest scene: The movie hasn't screened for us Americans yet, but as the story concerns a mother named Philomena who had to give up the son she had out of wedlock for adoption, the result of her strict Irish-Catholic family, there will surely be at least a couple, if not one major heartrending scene.
Why the peformance might get ignored: It's a small British film that won't receive significant nationwide buzz.
DDL says: "This is a night for Americans!"
Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis in Inside Llewyn Davis
Biggest challenge: Engaging audiences with his talent, both as a musician and an actor, despite being an relatively unknown name.
Biggest scene: As his frustration with his dead-end music career, his absent first love, and the death of his partner comes to a head, Isaac's Davis goes on a scathing rant during a dinner party hosted by his friends.
Why the peformance might get ignored: In a year crowded with excellent performances from A-list actors, and despite the fact his acting ability proves he'll definitely share the category with DDL in the future, anyone suggesting his nomination might get a "Who?" in response.
DDL says: "Someday, I think you and I are going to have a serious disagreement."
Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks
Biggest challenge: Turning the largely forgotten literary figure of P.L. Harvey, who created the Mary Poppins books, into a dynamic character onscreen.
Biggest scene: The inevitable moment when Ms. Travers gives Walt Disney permission to turn her treasured source material into motion pictures.
Why the peformance might get ignored: A biographical movie about an obscure historical figure (in name only) will be dwarfed by its bigger budgeted, star-studded (from top to bottom) competition.
DDL says: "Fuck me! What's she doing with that mouse?"
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street
Biggest challenge: Giving some semblance of vulnerable relatability to a career con man
Biggest scene: Why, the moment he gets caught by the FBI, of course.
Why the peformance might get ignored: With Scorsese directing, the ultra-calculated marketing campaign, there is no way his performance slips under any kind of radar
DDL says: "Here's the thing. I don't give a tuppenny fuck about your moral conundrum, you meat-headed shit-sack."
Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street
Biggest challenge: Drifting into full-blown Jewish caricature.
Biggest scene: Why, the moment when DiCaprio gets caught by the FBI, of course.
Why the peformance might get ignored: Hill shares billing with DiCaprio, who should grab most of the attention.
DDL says: "You're a bastard in a basket."
Everyone in American Hustle
Biggest challenge: Dancing really well? Looking fucking awesome?
Biggest scene: If the trailer is any indication, the dry cleaning scene is going to leave everyone breathless.
Why the peformance might get ignored: As God as my witness, I will place gold statuettes in the hands of Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper before the 2014 Oscars are over, I'm so sincere.