If Eppler picked Oscar nominees: Lead Actor/Actress

Reported by: James Eppler
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Updated: 1/08/2013 11:41 am

On Twitter: @JamesEppler

We'll learn this week who Academy voters are choosing to honor for 2012. So before they have their say, I'm giving my choices of who I think deserves to be nominated. I started last week with the Supporting acting categories.

Best Actress:
A note here: some of the most critically-acclaimed female performances of the year have not seen a screen in Lubbock. I'm talking about Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty," Maggie Smith in "Quartet," Marion Cotillard in "Rust and Bone," and I have yet to make it to see Naomi Watts in "The Impossible."
So it seems silly to make five choices for me in this category, since I haven't seen many of these movies. But here's who does deserve to be included:

Jennifer Lawrence in either "Silver Linings Playbook" or "The Hunger Games"
Either would be entirely appropriate - both performances find Lawrence demonstrating a wide emotional range, and creating unique characters. At 22 years old, she's turning into one of the finest actresses out there..

Quvenzhane Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
She's nine years old now, but she gave this performance three years ago. I have a friend who says Wallis was too young at the time to understand the gravity of her scenes or really know what she was portraying. But watching this film, and the fully realized performance she gives, I'm once again convinced my friend is an idiot.

Best Actor
In a year of many excellent movies, it's tough to narrow down this category to five.

Jack Black in "Bernie"
Black disappears into the role of a kind funeral director who commits a heinous crime in a moment of passion. I doubt he'll be nominated because the Academy has trouble taking funny men seriously even if they give great performances. Ask Jim Carrey.

Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"

His performance as the weary, war-battered President is wonderful, but I would argue it's not even his best. And that's saying something.

John Hawkes in "The Sessions"
There's a genuine sense of fear and wonder in Hawkes' beautiful performance as a paralyzed man looking to experience sex with a woman for the first time. He's heartbreaking.

Matthew McConaughey in "Killer Joe"
He's getting more praise for his supporting work in "Magic Mike," but in "Killer Joe" McConaughey is devious, soothing and sinister as a contract killer who also happens to be a policeman. His calm deflowering of a young girl and his brutal attack on another character are equally frightening and disturbing.

Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
He talked trash about the Oscars months ago, which may hurt his chances, but this is my choice for the best performance of the year. Phoenix is raw and on-edge as a former sailor who can't shake his demons and finds solace with a man who seems more like the Devil himself.

I'm sure the Academy will include at least of few of these when nominations are announced Thursday morning. Who am I leaving out?
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