Just like with Oscar ballots I'm weighting these with #1 as my top choice and so on down the list. For the record I classified Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained as lead performances.
1. Samuel L. Jackson - Django Unchained
It took the man who made Samuel L. Jackson a major star in the first place to prove to the world that underneath the popular badass persona Jackson hadn't loss a bit of his acting prowess. As Stephen, Jackson gives a daring, multilayered performance that at first blush appears to be a grating Uncle Tom caricature but continues to reveal layers as the film unfolds. Far from the benign cantankerous old servant image he maintains on the surface, Jackson reveals Stephen to be a warped and a crafty player in the story's drama.
2. Garrett Hedlund - On the Road
What should be the star making performance of the year if people could be bothered to notice. Hedlund's performance carries the full weight of the film's themes and he delivers, creating a charismatic, untamable whirlwind of a character. He encapsulates the idea of living your life with wild abandon but he does so without soft-pedaling the consequences. It's in the tired, sad face of Hedlund's Dean Moriarty at the story's end that we feel the full impact of this adventure.
3. Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
Tommy Lee Jones has one of the best faces in the business. Appropriately for a historical drama, Jones looks like he arrived already carved in stone. As the obstinate Abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, the audience can't help but interpret every flicker that passes over it's craggy landscape. He is effortlessly engaging just sitting perfectly still. Making it all the more enjoyable when he goes for broke on several flights of Kushner's rich dialogue.
4. Dwight Henry - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director Benh Zeitling earned his best director nomination if only for plucking Henry out of obscurity to deliver one of the year's most moving performances. It's a performance devoid of tricks or overly-studied mannerisms. He presents an individual who at first glance seems unbearable but who we gradually understand to be a caring father and a intractably stubborn man who insists on living and dying on his own terms. Henry's beautiful direct simplicity is an achievement to which many pros could learn.
5.Michael Fassbender - Prometheus
Prometheus was a most aggravating movie experience, showing hints of greatness only to bury them under a slag heap of poorly though out, wanna-be Arthur C Clarke gobbledygook. The most consistent window into the film that might have been was in Fassbender's work as the ship's inscrutable android. It is the kind of acting challenge that seems thankless due to the tight confines of the role, yet Fassbender was able to introduce a undercurrent of weirdness to the role without coloring outside the lines of playing a machine. It made him fascinating to watch even as the film was abandoning logic and piling up plot holes at every turn.
More 2012 Ballots